News / Science & Technology

Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dusti
X
Rosanne Skirble
April 21, 2014 8:56 PM
A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Rosanne Skirble
A robotic mission to the moon has intentionally crashed into the lunar surface. Before the programmed crash, scientists collected data from the craft, called LADEE, an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer. 

LADEE has been orbiting the moon since October. The tube-shaped probe is about the size of a vending machine, with solar panels mounted on its sides. Its mission was to study dust in the lunar atmosphere. Project manager Butler Hine with NASA’s Ames Research Center says LADEE began taking measurements at 250 kilometers above the lunar surface.      

"And as we got lower into the science orbit, the dust density just kept increasing," he said. 

So, where does all that dust come from? And how does it move about the moon? Flying at an altitude of between 20-50 kilometers, LADEE’s array of instruments took some 700,000 measurements to answer those questions.   

"And one of the things that we saw is that it is almost a continuous shroud around the moon and some of the production of the dust is done by meteorite impacts to the moon and that’s kind of a continuous rain on the moon and so the source of the dust is kind of a continuous thing," he said.

Hine says while a moon-based observatory would have to account for the dust in its optical design, dust would not pose a problem for spacecraft or human activity on the surface.

"And what we’ve seen so far is that while there’s a lot of dust, the levels are high, we haven’t seen any indication that that level of dust is a hazard at all," he said. "We haven’t seen any degradation of our spacecraft systems and the dust levels that we do detect wouldn’t pose a significant risk to any future mission."

LADEE discovered traces of argon, methane, carbon dioxide and other substances. It also successfully tested a broadband communications system between Earth and the moon. Hine says LADEE’s new modular space bus design could be replicated on a range of missions.

"The spacecraft can be put together in different ways depending on the type of mission.  For instance this bus [design] can be configured as a lunar orbiter, which is what LADEE is… It is designed for the environment anywhere between the Earth orbit and Mars orbit," he said. "It’s even designed as a lunar lander configuration. So you can take some of the bus modules, put them together in a fashion where it could land on the moon."  

Among the tense moments for Mission Control in California was a lunar eclipse during LADEE’s final days, which put the solar array in darkness. For four hours, the craft had to depend on its battery to protect its systems from freezing.

"We basically prepared the spacecraft ahead of the eclipse, where we turned off the science instruments to conserve power," he said. "We turned on and off different heaters and configured them to go on and off and then we let it fly through the eclipse."

"The challenge was that we’re not getting any power generated and we’re drawing a lot more power during the eclipse to keep things warm."

But LADEE did not need much more power. The craft was programmed to self-destruct on the far side of the moon away from the historic sites where astronauts have landed. It continued to gather and send data in its last days, as it flew just two kilometers above the lunar surface, en route to the planned crash

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs