News / Science & Technology

NASA Readies Lunar Mission, Invites International Participation

NASA Readies for Launch of Lunar Missioni
X
September 03, 2013 9:36 PM
The U.S. space agency NASA is launching a new mission to study the moon. VOA's Suzanne Presto in Washington has more about what scientists hope to learn from the LADEE mission, set to launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia later this week.
Suzanne Presto
The U.S. space agency is launching a mission to study the moon from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on September 7 around 0330 UTC.
 
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, known as LADEE, is NASA's newest robotic mission.  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.

Lunar Dust

LADEE also will collect data about lunar dust, such as its electric charge, density and mass.

LADEE project manager Butler Hine told reporters at a mission pre-launch briefing that lunar dust is "kind of evil."  He said the moon's dust is very rough, not powdery like terrestrial dust.

"It works its way in equipment," Hine said.  "So one of the questions about dust on the moon is an engineering question: How do you design things so that they can survive the dust environment?"  

And there's another question scientists hope to answer. Astronauts who landed on the moon in the 1960s reported seeing a pre-sunrise glow, and NASA wants to know if electrically charged lunar dust was responsible for it.

Pristine Landscape

It's been decades since a manned mission, so the timing is right, says LADEE program scientist Sarah Noble.

"There's actually a number of countries, a number of private companies, that are planning landings on the moon in the upcoming years, so now is a really good time to go and take a look at it while it's still in its sort of pristine natural state," she said.

Noble says a landing disturbs the moon's delicate atmosphere more than other impacts do because of the fuel used when a craft lands on the lunar surface.  

International Participation

NASA is urging amateur astronomers worldwide to watch for lunar impacts during the LADEE mission.
 
"There are impacts hitting the moon all the time, and we want to know what impact those impacts are having on the atmosphere and dust environment," said Noble.    

She added that even skywatchers who don't have telescopes powerful enough to spot lunar impacts can take part.  People with iPhones can download a free application called Meteor Counter, and when they observe meteorites here on Earth, they can share their observations with the space agency.  

"As we go through a meteorite storm, a certain number of things are hitting the moon, and they're also hitting the Earth at roughly the same rates, so we actually are interested in acquiring data about how many things are hitting the Earth at any given time," Noble explained.

NASA's Noble says something the size of LADEE hits the moon about once a month, and LADEE will do just that, with a controlled crash at the end of its mission.

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs