NASA's LADEE Probe may Finally Fly Just above Moon’s Surface before Demise
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission has reached its end as scientists have planned its crash on the moon on April 21. After the crash LADEE spacecraft will vaporize. Since its launch, it has provided significant insight into moon by exploring the shroud of dust and the trace gases surrounding the moon.
However, scientists are looking forward to fly LADEE just above the moon's surface one final time before its demise.
"There is a chance that we could clip a mountain accidentally, but the risk is pretty low for that. And really, the value of the science that we can do with this attempt is worth this risk", said project manager Butler Hine, with NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field.
These low-altitude, high-risk attempts wouldn't have been authorized if all the requirements had not been met, said LADEE program executive Joan Salute, with NASA Headquarters in Washington DC.
LADEE will seek a decline in its altitude this weekend before ending up less than three kilometers above the lunar surface. The only danger in front of LADEE is not the risk of ramming into a lunar mountain, but a prolonged period of potentially deadly cold during an eclipse on April 15.
There are chances that the spacecraft's propulsion system could freeze and burst. But engineers have said that current predictions show no risk to LADEE. If LADEE makes the attempt successful then researchers on earth will get significant detail about how much dust is blasting off the lunar surface at low altitudes.
Researchers are also looking forward to get more measurements of trace gases, including neon, magnesium, aluminium, titanium and oxygen. These are present in the region of space around the moon, so-called exosphere. Something new has been discovered after dropping to a lower altitude in the past.
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