Written by By Monique Washington, CNN
Known by NASA as the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), the probe is set to launch on the new Delta 4 rocket from Cape Canaveral. It will launch from the Central Florida Air Force Station at 7:29 a.m. ET on Friday, September 14.
“LADEE’s mission is a simple one. It will seek clues to what makes the moon’s atmosphere what it is,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “We hope to finally answer the question about the moon’s history of creating its own atmosphere billions of years ago.”
The first flight of the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket carries the LADEE spacecraft and seven co-passenger satellites.
The mission will travel to low-Earth orbit to test technologies related to fuel transportation, safety systems and scientific investigation before beginning its about 6.6-month mission to the moon.
There are multiple screens and cameras set up around the exterior of the vehicle. Viewers around the world will be able to watch the launch live.
NASA predicts that the Moon’s gravity and lunar atmosphere could collide with LADEE, prompting the spacecraft to have to fly out of orbit by 1.9 miles, according to the US space agency.
LADEE is set to fly to the moon using the first lunar gravity assist maneuvers since the Apollo 15 mission. The spacecraft will be sent into orbit at an altitude of 500 miles, lower than that of the earlier Apollo missions in order to improve its path to the lunar surface by limiting the weight.
“Next to the International Space Station, the moon is perhaps the most recognizable object in the solar system. We can learn a lot about our universe from LADEE,” said Tom Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
NASA plans to use the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer to investigate the origin of the moon’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Kornmesser (CNES/DLR/FU Berlin), A. Simon (CNES/DLR/FU Berlin), and M. Kornmesser (CNES/DLR/FU Berlin)
“NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will help us understand the huge contribution the moon has made to our planet’s composition and life,” Zurbuchen said.
LADEE will orbit the moon and gather data about low-earth atmosphere and dust particles while traveling to the lunar surface. The aircraft will gather data on the lunar environment with its spectrometer and be capable of determining the internal structure of lunar dust as it grows and dissipates.
It will also measure atmospheric pressures, given that its high-speed flight will allow it to measure the dimensions of the lunar environment at altitudes of up to 20 kilometers.
The mission will allow researchers to see if there is a natural upper limit to the low-earth orbit environment.
Moon orbiting probe
While LADEE will seek to answer questions about the origins of the lunar atmosphere, NASA will also use the mission to understand the moon’s topography, composition and other factors that impact the density of the low-earth atmosphere.
NASA also plans to launch a polar-orbiting spacecraft named LADEE after its science campaign.