In September, NASA will launch its first deep space mission from Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about its atmosphere during the 160-day mission. It will also monitor conditions near the moon's surface and how the environment affects lunar dust. LADEE, weighing approximately 800 pounds, will lift off on a U.S. Air Force Minotaur V rocket. The observatory consists of three science instruments: an ultraviolet and visible light spectrometer for determining the composition of the lunar atmosphere, a neutral mass spectrometer for measuring variations in the lunar atmosphere, and a lunar dust experiment that will collect and analyze samples of lunar dust particles.
Photo credit: NASA