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NASA's Latest Lunar Probe Mission: A Rundown

NASA's Latest Lunar Probe Mission: A Rundown

By Swapna Krishna

A mission to the moon. Yes, I know what you all are thinking: Unless there are people on that probe, why should we care at this point? Well, believe it or not, we still have a lot to learn about our little brother (plus space is cool!), and that's just what this little probe that could is going to do: solve an enduring lunar mystery that's bothered scientists for decades, since the pre-moon landing days.

Intrigued yet?

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer ("LADEE") was launched from Wallops Island, VA on Friday, September 6, around 11:30 PM—you may have seen the launch if you're on the east coast. The launch went off perfectly, and LADEE embarked on his month-long journey to the moon. There were some glitches en route (specifically, its wheel system, which is supposed to help maneuver the craft without using fuel, shut down), but everything is humming along just fine now. LADEE is going to reveal new secrets from the moon during his 100 day mission, and then crash himself into the lunar surface, as all good probes are wont to do.

So... what is this mystery that LADEE is going to solve?

It's a puzzle that goes back to 1968, when Surveyor 7 saw some sort of "moon glow" along the horizon of the lunar surface, which was later confirmed by Apollo astronauts. Scientists have their theories about what it is, but that's what LADEE is going to find out once and for all.

Also? It's going to use LASERS. (To test faster communication from the moon to the earth, not in its moon glow mission, but come on. Lasers on the moon. That's pretty cool.)

For more information, check out NASA's LADEE page, but since we'll be waiting for the next month or so, why not throw out some speculation?

What do YOU think the moon glow is?

Tags: science, the moon, space, nasa, space travel

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About the Author
Swapna Krishna

Swapna is a Washington, DC-based freelance editor who loves all things space and sci fi. You can find her book reviews at S. Krishna’s Books (http://www.skrishnasbooks.com) and on Twitter at @skrishna.

Wanna contact a writer or editor? Email contribute@sparknotes.com.