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NASA Heads Back to the Moon

  • VOA News

This image provided by NASA shows the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer aboard a Minotaur V rocket after a rollout at NASA's Wallops Island test flight facility in Wallops Island, Va., Sept. 5, 2013.

This image provided by NASA shows the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer aboard a Minotaur V rocket after a rollout at NASA's Wallops Island test flight facility in Wallops Island, Va., Sept. 5, 2013.

The U.S. space agency is returning to the moon.

An unmanned rocket blasted off late Friday from Virginia's Eastern Shore with a robotic explorer that will study the lunar atmosphere and dust.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, known as LADEE, is the size of a small car, and it will collect data for 100 days as it orbits our moon.

Scientists want to learn more about the moon's thin atmosphere because they think it could be common in our solar system. That knowledge could help them better understand large asteroids and other planets, including Mercury.

Most of NASA's previous lunar missions were launched from Florida. The first moon shot from Virginia was visible over a large area of the eastern United States - home to more than 50 million people.

The LADEE capsule will have no way to return from lunar orbit, so the U.S. space agency intends to aim spacecraft into a controlled crash on the surface of the moon.

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