TO THE MOON, MARS, AND BEYOND

Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

LADEE Project Scientist Update: The Legacy Lives On! - April 22, 2014

 LADEE Project Scientist Update: The Legacy Lives On! - April 22, 2014
Almost a year ago LADEE had a mission to the moon, remember? 
- LRK -

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NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has impacted the Moon, capping an extremely successful operational mission. Science analysis will continue for months, as the science teams churn through the data and write papers about their findings. So LADEE is gone, but its science legacy lives on!
LADEE ran its science instruments almost non-stop right up to impact the evening of April 17, 2014, in an effort to gather as much low-altitude data as possible. Further study of the returned data will reveal what the instruments saw at these amazingly low orbits, just a few kilometers above the surface. Early results suggest that LADEE was low enough to see some new things, including increased dust density and possibly new atmospheric species. In an incredible race with time, LADEE’s Real Time Operations team queued and downloaded all science files just minutes prior to LADEE's impact.
As the clock was running out on the LADEE mission, we took advantage of an opportunity to replicate observations by the Apollo astronauts more than 40 years ago. (We hinted at this in an earlier update). We used one of the star tracker cameras to gaze out over the Moon's horizon, while LADEE was in the deep darkness of the lunar night and over the far side where no Earthshine can reach.
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Then in November 2014 it's crash site was imaged.
- LRK -
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NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has finally identified the impact crater created by the LADEE Spacecraft that crashed into the Moon back in April to close out its mission of exploring the tenuous lunar atmosphere to answer long-standing questions on its composition and processes ongoing therein to look into the development and evolution of planetary bodies with exospheres. LADEE - going by the full name 'Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer' - also served as a pathfinder for new technologies, testing a new satellite bus and demonstrating laser communications at large distances for future use in space applications.
LADEE launched back on September 7, 2013 blasting off atop a Minotaur V rocket that delivered the craft to a Lunar Transfer Orbit from which LADEE began using its own propulsion system to enter lunar orbit on October 6 followed by several orbit adjustments to begin science operations from a low orbit around the Moon on November 22. Due to its low orbit, LADEE's mission was limited in time as the spacecraft frequently had to perform orbital adjustment maneuvers to maintain a stable orbit. The mission was extended by four weeks since the vehicle's propellant supply lasted until April 11
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Thanks for looking up with me.
- LRK -
LADEE Project Scientist Update: December 2014
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The LADEE science team also has been busy analyzing the returned data, figuring out how the exosphere breathes and changes, and how the moon's tenuous dust shroud varies in time and space.
The Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) discovered a low-density cloud of small dust particles over the part of the moon that faces the more-or-less steady rain of micrometeoroid particles onto the lunar surface. The Earth/moon system orbits the sun with an average speed of 30 km/sec (67,000 mph), and like bugs on a car windshield, the interplanetary micrometeoroid materials smack into the "upstream" side of the Earth and moon. On Earth these cause meteors, which burn up in the atmosphere, but with the almost negligible atmosphere on the moon, these particles smash into the surface with tremendous speed. Each particle impact sends a spray of ejecta up into the lunar sky; this process is continuous but really increases when the moon encounters a micrometeoroid stream. The flux of incoming particles can increase by factors of up to ten times the normal rates – we see these as meteor showers on Earth. On the moon, it's a very heavy rain of tiny, tiny rocks, and the spray of ejecta increases accordingly.
LADEE saw these meteor shower dust particles several times during the mission. LADEE also looked for mysterious "levitated" dust, thought to be suspended by electric forces over the sunrise and sunset terminators. This mystery was prompted in part by astronaut sightings of a horizon glow seen from orbit. However, the spacecraft’s instruments found no evidence of anything that could be seen by the human eye.
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WHAT THE MIND CAN CONCEIVE, AND BELIEVE, IT WILL ACHIEVE - LRK -
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