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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid