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NASA’s Moon Mission ready for launch

NASA's LADEE

NASA’s LADEE

Weather conditions were “looking real good” for NASA’s Friday night launch of a small robotic spacecraft on a mission to investigate the mysterious moon dust that Apollo astronauts encountered decades ago.

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE, pronounced like “laddie”) is a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft, known as LADEE, is scheduled for launch at 11:27 p.m. EDT on Friday (0327 GMT Saturday) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia.

Space fans in New York City can watch live coverage from the Toshiba Vision Screen in Times Square, just below the site where the famous New Year’s Eve ball is dropped. The launch will also be shown on www.nasa.gov

The Minotaur V rocket with LADEE aboard

The Minotaur V rocket with LADEE aboard

Scientists suspected that dust from the lunar surface was being electrically charged and somehow lofted off the ground. LADEE will orbit the moon and gather data to test the theory as part of the $304 million mission.

It will take 30 days for LADEE to get to the moon due to its relatively low-powered launcher.

The spacecraft is scheduled to drop into a low lunar orbit to begin its science mission about 60 days after launch.

Spacecraft is 2.4m high and 1.8m wide, and weighs 383kg fully fuelled. Based on a new low-cost modular chassis for use on other planetary missions. Mission will last six months in total with 100-day science observation phase. LADEE will be crashed into the lunar surface when its fuel supply has run out.

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