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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora