Today in space: LADEE landing on the moon

On April 18, 2014, the lunar atmosphere and dust probe named LADEE also known, ended its mission by hitting the moon. This satellite had spent seven months orbiting the moon and studying its exosphere.

The exosphere is a thin layer of gas that’s kind of like the atmosphere, but the molecules are more spread out in that area and it’s definitely not breathable. LADEE conducted the Lunar Dust Experiment, where it collected and analyzed dust particles floating around the exosphere.

The impact of the orbiter on the surface of the moon.

The purpose of this experiment was to help NASA solve the mystery of the faint glow that the Apollo astronauts saw on the moon’s horizon. LADEE detected neon in the exosphere, but it wasn’t enough to explain the glow, and the mystery remains unsolved.

The objectives of the satellite during the launch included the following:

  • Determining the globular density, composition, and changes in the Moon’s atmosphere before human activity began.
  • Determining whether the Apollo astronauts’ observations were sodium glow or dust.
  • Determining the impact of ambient dust and the frequency of dust removal as a guide for engineers designing future robotic settlements and missions.

When LADEE ran out of fuel, NASA deliberately steered it toward the Moon. The orbiter left a trace of its small impact on the surface of the back of the moon and lost contact with the Earth and became space debris.

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