NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) has completed its month-long journey to the moon and is now safely in lunar orbit. Universe Today reported that the spacecraft fired its main engine at 6:57 a.m. EDT this morning. LADEE's thrusters continued firing for four minutes, slowing the spacecraft so it could be captured by the moon's gravity.
Two more main engine maneuvers, one on October 9 and the second on October 12, will be required to place LADEE in a roughly circular orbit at an altitude of 250 kilometers from the moon's surface. Once in this orbit, LADEE will begin commissioning tests on its scientific instruments and conducting tests using its Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD) equipment. Eventually LADEE will fly in very low orbit about 50 kilometers above the moon's surface in order to take scientific readings. The mission was designed to study the moon's extremely thin atmosphere and study environmental influences on lunar dust. The science mission is expected to last about 100 days, depending on the spacecraft's fuel consumption.
LADEE was designed and constructed by NASA Ames Research Center and is a collaborative project with NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. LADEE was launched aboard an Orbital Sciences Minotaur V rocket from NASA's Wallops Island Launch Facility in Virginia on September 6.