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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid