If you’ve never witnessed a launch to the Moon, here is good news for you. NASA is about to send a new probe to the moon. The new mission is not a landing mission but it is a great opportunity to witness a launch to the moon.
The probe is known as LADEE, which stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. It is a small, car size robotic probe that has the innovative and budget friendly common bus design.
Final preparations to launch it on September 6 are ongoing. It will launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island aboard a US Air Force Minotaur V rocket, an excess ballistic missile converted into a space launch rocket. It will begin its mission and activities one month after launch.
The probe will study the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and investigate whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky. Its findings will answer prevailing questions about the moon and give insights on other bodies in the solar system.
The Moon’s atmosphere is believed not to be so different from that of other bodies in the solar system. By understanding the characteristics and atmosphere of the moon, scientists will be able to understand other bodies in the solar system including other natural satellites, asteroids, comets and planets. It will also test the common bus design to inform its application on future missions.
A Mission of Many Firsts
The LADEE mission is a mission with many firsts. It is the first spacecraft designed, developed, built, integrated and tested by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffat Field, California. It is the first flight of the Minotaur V rocket testing of a high data rate laser communication system. Finally, it is the first launch beyond Earth orbit from NASA’s Virginia space coast launch facility.