NASA once again has its eyes set on the moon. The launch of LADEE (The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) spacecraft is expected for Friday night around 10:35 CDT from the Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The LADEE is attached atop a brand new Minotaur V rocket which is the debut mission for the Orbital Sciences Corp. booster.
This new mission from NASA is to explore and investigate a long-standing mystery behind lunar dust. The launch shouldn't be delayed because of weather with mostly clear skies and light winds in the forecast for later tonight. The nighttime launch will be visible for millions along the eastern seaboard.
NASA is launching LADEE from Pad 0B of Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, which is located on the agency's Wallops Flight Facility. It's the first time a moon mission has ever launched from spaceport, but the site was optimum for LADEE's intended spaceflight, NASA officials have said. If LADEE is unable to lift off Friday, the mission has backup launch opportunities between Sept. 7 and10, according to NASA officials.
The $280 million LADEE mission is designed to investigate the mysteries of the moon's thin atmosphere and dust.
The lunar atmosphere is actually representative of the most common known type of atmosphere in the solar system. Some large asteroids, various moons of giant planets and other objects have atmospheres like that of the moon, making LADEE's lunar science mission wide-reaching, NASA scientists have said.
Scientists are hoping to use the probe to hunt for the source of a glow that Apollo astronauts saw on the moon's horizon before sunrise. It's possible that the "streamers" of light seen by the astronauts could have been be caused by tiny particles of dust flying high in the moon's atmosphere and LADEE will look into that hypothesis.
LADEE will also be carrying a special communications demonstration to the moon. The spacecraft will use a laser communications device to possibly communicate with ground controllers at broadband speeds.
This kind of communications test could help scientists and engineers develop new ways to communicate with spacecraft farther into deep space.
You can watch the LADEE launch live on SPACE.com beginning at 9:30 p.m. EDT (0130 GMT), courtesy of NASA TV.
The content in this story was collected from Space.com