NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View celebrated the September 6, 2013 launch of a LADEE mission or NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
LADEE's launch marks the first launch of its kind. According to Dana Berry at the Ames Research Center, “It will be the first payload to launch on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket integrated by Orbital Sciences Corp. Members of the public and media joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility to watch the launch of LADEE.
Thousands of local residence joined in to celebrate NASA Ames Research Centers first satellite launch to the moon. NASA Ames LADEE’s Space Vehicle Manager Brian Lewis said, “The atmosphere of the moon is very small and has lots of dust.” The idea of the LADEE program is to use several tools that are able to study the lunar atmosphere and monitor dust activity that occurs in the lunar atmosphere an on the lunar surface. Lewis said, “A tool that uses spectrometry looks through the dust and tells us what chemicals are in the dust, and how big the dust particles are."
When measuring dust particles LADEE will be able to use three separate tools used to decipher what are the elements that make up the lunar atmosphere. There are several tasks needed to carry out the exploration using, a neutral mass spectrometer (NMS), that will be used to directly measure the concentration atmospheric dust. The ultraviolet/visible spectrometer (UVS) will be used to measure both the atmosphere and dust, and finally the Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) will directly measure dust particles.
LADEE’s Electrical Engineer Test Lead Chris Rogers said, “LADEE will download data helping scientists review an event that happens on the lunar surface.” Using test simulations before the flight helps technicians measure flight capability and the performance of all its electrical units in order to guarantee the satellite will be able to perform its tasks once launched into orbit. “There are still many events that happen on the lunar surface that are unexplained,” Rogers said. "Making sure everything runs smoothly is a very important task."
Several tests were made during the close out of the paneling system used to access the fueling system and test panels used to test the system before it is sent on its flight path through space. Rogers said, “The last thing that was done before LADEE was sent to the launch site was charge the battery.”
The LADEE spacecraft will not only be detecting lunar dust particles, the satellite will be using new laser technology in order to increase transmission speeds during the gathering of scientific data.
Jennifer Heldman with the Lunar Science Institute said, “More progress has been made in the last three years than in the last thirty.” “With the communities support, it helps us to keep going," Heldman said.
Gregory Schmidt, the Deputy Director Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute said, “The idea here is that LADEE is being sent to a very, very thin atmosphere that has a thousand times less energy than here on Earth.” While focusing on the lunar atmosphere LADEE will be using a broadband signal using a laser to transmit information back to the scientists here at NASA Ames at the Lunar Science Institute.
“In most space mission to the moon, Mars, Jupiter, and beyond had to do with radio wave transmissions,” Schmidt said. With new technologies emerging through the use of space exploration, the launch and successful run of LADEE marks a new beginning for scientists around the world.