Space agency NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer or LADEE has been designed to probe the moon’s thin atmosphere and lunar dust. The good news is after a month-long journey, the lunar probe is now orbiting the Moon.
NASA launched LADEE (the name is pronounced “Laddie”) on September 7, 2013, at 03:27 UTC, docking on a Minotaur V rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. However, after three elliptical orbits around the Earth, last Sunday, meaning October 6, the engines of LADEE burned for the firs time and took it into the orbit around the Moon.
At present, LADEE is in the first lunar orbit insertion. Now it needs to perform two more lunar orbit insertion maneuvers. The probe’s next burn is scheduled for today (Wednesday, Oct 9) and the third is scheduled for Saturday (Oct 12), which will lower it to an altitude of 155 miles.
However, LADEE will spend 100 days for scientific mission. It will orbit around the Moon’s equator, and use instruments aboard the spacecraft to study the lunar exosphere and dust in the Moon’s vicinity. The lunar probe has many instruments including a dust detector, a neutral mass spectrometer, and an ultraviolet-visible spectrometer, as well as a technology demonstration consisting of a laser communications terminal.