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article imageNASA to explore lunar atmosphere with unmanned 'LADEE'

By John Sevigny     Aug 26, 2013 in Science
As part of an unmanned mission, NASA is set to send the car-sized Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) to the Moon to learn about it's atmosphere, and how it may be similar to that of other planets in the solar system.
In terms of machinery size, it's a far cry from the Apollo missions that marked the golden age of Lunar exploration.
NASA is sending an automobile-sized, 844-pound craft to orbit to the moon and suck-up moon dust to learn more about its atmosphere, which unlike the earth's is not protected by gravity field, and is very thin, according to Space.com.
The probe will drop down into the atmosphere, in hopes that examining dust particles that drift up from the surface of the moon will reveal similarities between the moon's atmosphere and that of planets in the solar system, according to a press release issued by the space exploration administration.
"The moon's tenuous atmosphere may be more common in the solar system than we thought," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science in Washington. "Further understanding of the moon's atmosphere may also help us better understand our diverse solar system and its evolution."
NASA will launch the unmanned Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) Sept. 6 aboard a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Eastern Virginia. It marks the first time a probe has been launched to the moon from that location, the Web site Universe Today reported.
LADEE will orbit the moon for more than 130 days, collecting information on the atmosphere, and allowing NASA scientists on Earth to test out its laser guided navigation system, according to the press release.
The launch is set for 11.27 p.m. , Eastern Daylight Time, and depending on weather conditions is expected to be visible in many parts of the Northeastern United States.
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