LADEE Lunar Mission Launches From Wallops! - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

LADEE Lunar Mission Launches From Wallops!

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WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – The LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) spacecraft is now on its 30 day journey to the moon!  It made a successful lift-off from the NASA Wallops Island flight facility, just about 30 minutes before midnight, Friday night. It was a spectacular earth to space aerial display, which thousands of visitors traveled to the Eastern Shore coastline to see.

LADEE took to the skies, just about 50 years after the start of the Apollo Program, which is fitting, since it was during those missions to the moon that astronauts first observed what is now believed to be electrically charged lunar dust in the moon's atmosphere.

LADEE is a robotic mission and the first spacecraft designed, developed, built, integrated and tested at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA.  Ames manages the overall LADEE mission. 

But LADEE presents a number of firsts.  It's the first lunar and deep space mission to launch from Wallops Island.   LADEE is now the first launch in space program history to use a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket, a ballistic missile converted into a space launch vehicle

Plus, the design of the spacecraft is a first of its kind.  LADEE is only about the length of a small car and runs on the power of about five 60-watt light bulbs.  For a deep space mission, it was relatively inexpensive to make.   The price tag on this total project - $280 million dollars.

There will also be equipment onboard called the "Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration", which will test the effectiveness of high bandwidth, high-speed laser communications from deep space.

The entire LADEE mission is 160 days.  One month after launch, the spacecraft goes into lunar orbit.   After about a month of systems checks, the spacecraft will descend to about 31 miles above the moon's surface, and will start scientific operations for the next one hundred days.  LADEE will finish its mission by eventually make impact on the moon.  

And for all the space-fans out there, over the span of LADEE's Moon Mission, NASA is asking for the public's participation. 

They want schools and amateur astronomers to document any asteroid or meteorite impacts they might notice striking the moon's surface.  This will help scientists track and compare data with the information LADEE collects from the moon.  And even if you don't have a telescope, you can help by simply going out and counting meteors in the nighttime sky. 

NASA made this even easier by creating a smart-phone app called "MeteorCounter", which can help you send the information you collect straight to NASA.

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