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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid