NASA’s New Moon Probe Enters Lunar Orbit

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by Miriam Kramer
NASA’s New Moon Probe Enters Lunar Orbit

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft in orbit …

NASA’s newest lunar probe is officially orbiting the moon.

After a month-long journey, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft — designed to probe the moon’s thin atmosphere and lunar dust — performed an engine burn on Sunday (Oct. 6) that took it into orbit around the moon.

While the current U.S. government shutdown has all but halted work at NASA, operations for the $280 million mission are not affected because LADEE is in a critical phase, Rachel Hoover, a spokesperson at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California told Spaceflight Now before the shutdown. NASA’s federal shutdown plan has furloughed most of the agency’s 18,000 employees, but does allow the agency to watch over spacecraft in flight like LADEE and the International Space Station. [Photos: NASA’s LADEE Moon Dust Mission in Pictures]

Before arriving in lunar orbit, the LADEE spacecraft (the name is pronounced “laddie”) made three elliptical orbits around the Earth, moving into a higher orbit on each pass around the planet. Once its orbit was high enough, the moon’s gravity took over and LADEE performed its big burn to transfer to lunar orbit, mission managers have said.

LADEE now needs to perform two more lunar orbit insertion maneuvers before the probe’s approximately month-long checkout phase can begin. The probe’s next burn is scheduled for Oct. 9 and the third is scheduled for Oct. 12, which will lower it to an altitude of 155 miles (250 kilometers).

During the checkout period, scientists will test out LADEE’s laser-communications demonstration. The experiment used laser technology to send large amounts of data back to Earth. The laser communication model could allow spacecraft to send 3D information, high-definition video and other data back to ground controllers, scientists have said.

Once LADEE’s commissioning phase is finished, the probe will begin 100 days of science designed to probe the mysteries of the moon’s atmosphere and a moon dust mystery dating back to the Apollo program.

Apollo astronauts saw streamers of light on the horizon before sunrise on the moon. LADEE’s instrumentation will help scientists understand what could have caused the glow.

NASA officials wrote in a facts sheet: “Was lunar dust, electrically charged by solar ultraviolet light, responsible for the pre-sunrise horizon glow that the Apollo astronauts saw?”

LADEE will also investigate the moon’s extremely thin atmosphere. Called a surface boundary exosphere, the lunar atmosphere represents the most common kind of atmosphere in the solar system. Some planets (like Mercury), moons and even certain large asteroids play host to these kinds of atmospheres, making LADEE’s research wide reaching.

“It’s a class of atmosphere we actually don’t know that much about, so it turns out that the moon actually is a really convenient place to go and learn about this very common type of atmosphere,” Sarah Noble, LADEE program scientist, said before the probe’s Sept. 6 launch.

LADEE launched to space atop the first flight of the Minotaur V rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.

Fuel of the Future

Spaceship

Alternative fuels will eventually be the thing that breaks space travel wide open, and will  make it possible to really explore most of space . As new fuel sources are discovered they will be cleaner, more efficient, and more powerful. At some point in the future alternative fuels may make it possible to go  into unknown areas of space and beyond.

 

 

HOW SPACE EXPLORATION HAS CHANGED THROUGH HISTORY

space-explorationThe first Space Exploration occurred in 1957 with the launch of the very first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, sent in to space by the Soviets. Since ancient times individuals have dreamed of departing the Earth and discovering other planets not known to man. Each era through history has developed a belief in regard to what the “heavens” are created form. The Greeks believed that the heavens and space were made from a material known as “Quietness”, and other traditions once believed that the stars had been made of their own people who had died.

We now k now what stars are made of; they’re made of numerous gases which explode again and again. Up until 43 years ago people could not travel in, nor even send objects into space. The most challenging part of traveling in space had been developing rockets which were powerful and dependable enough fling an object or people into space.

When speaking of space, objects that are frequently discussed are Comets and Asteroid’s. A comet is basically, little, rocky, icy and also revolves around the sun. When a comet travels close to the sun, some of the ice turns to gas. This gas mixed with some dirty rock creates a lengthy, bright tail that points away from the comet.

If a comet where to hit our planet, it could trigger damage. Even if some thing relatively little in size striked the earth, it might cause significant damage. Little, from a comet`s point of view is something under 200 meters across. A comet that size hitting the Earth could wipe out an entire city.

Asteroid’s are small or minor  planets that move in what elliptical orbits. They are usually discovered between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. They may be the debris of a planet that was destroyed by being hit by comets and then did not have enough mass to reform as a planet. Our current knowledge of space may not be as romantic as that of past civilizations, but it no less interesting.

 

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