NASA will end their $280 million mission by crashing the vending sized LADEE probe into the moon. The LADEE probe has been orbiting the moon since October, studying the lunar dust environment and moon’s thin atmosphere, which is called an exosphere. Rick Elphic, a LADEE project scientist speaks out to reporters about the expected impact of the crash.
Elphic explains that when anything the size of a vending machine crashes into another object traveling about 5,250 feet per second, the landing is not going to be gentle, which translates as the moon is going to have another huge crater. Elphic goes on to explain the impact the moon and the LADEE probe will encounter, saying that the LADEE will no doubt tumble across the moon’s surface until it’s completely destroyed. Butler Hine, another LADEE project manager says that another one of NASA’s probes that is circling the moon and it may be able to look for the crash site.
Before NASA crashes the expensive probe into the moon, they will try to find out more about the lunar dust. The LADEE probe is set to hover only a few kilometers above the surface of the moon and investigate. Hine explains that the moon’s terrain varies quickly from carter ridges and valleys, and this makes the gravity field very lumpy. Frequent maneuvers are going to be required, because the team wants to limit the impact LADEE will have on the moon’s surface. The expiration date for LADEE is set for April 21 because this is when the scientists estimate all the fuel will be depleted.
One of LADEE’S missions was to find out more about the lunar dust mystery, which goes all the way back to the Apollo program. The Apollo astronauts reported seeing the horizon of the moon glowing before sunrise. Scientists think that the glow could have been caused the moon’s dust being thrown up into the exosphere. However, so far LADEE has not found any data that explains why the moon would appear to glow.
If LADEE has not crashed by April 15, NASA will be able to test the limits of the probe during a lunar eclipse. The shadow of the Earth will pass over the moon and make it extremely cold for the spacecraft during the four hours of the eclipse. NASA scientists are excited to see how the LADEE handles the intense cold weather, since most of the data suggests that it should be fine. Having the probe endure the extreme cold weather for a prolonged period of time is the ultimate test. The cold weather could cause the onboard laboratory to freeze and then burst. If this happens, it would destroy the entire craft.
LADEE was built and designed entirely by the Ames Research Center, making it one of the first spacecraft’s to be built-in house. NASA is giving the public a chance to guess the date when the probe will crash into the moon’s surface. Anyone interested can go to NASA’s website and enter their guess before April 11.
Opinion By Sara Petersen