NASA Launches Moon Mission
Unmanned spacecraft to explore lunar atmosphere
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 6, 2013 6:44 PM CDT
Updated Sep 6, 2013 10:51 PM CDT
This image provided by NASA shows the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer at NASA's Wallops Flight facility.   (AP Photo/NASA, Patrick Black)

(Newser) – NASA's newest robotic explorer rocketed into space late tonight in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia. The LADEE spacecraft, which is charged with studying the lunar atmosphere and dust, soared aboard an unmanned Minotaur rocket about 11:30 Eastern. It was a change of venue for NASA, which normally launches moon missions from Cape Canaveral, Fla. But it provided a rare light show along the East Coast for those blessed with clear skies.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer is taking a roundabout path to the moon, making three huge laps around Earth before getting close enough to pop into lunar orbit. LADEE, which is the size of a small car, is expected to reach the moon on Oct. 6. Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon's ever-so-delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time. Another puzzle, dating back decades, is whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface.

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NorCalHal
Sep 7, 2013 2:37 PM CDT
While Teflon and Velcro are probably the most commonly cited commercial products of the space and aerospace programs there are tens of thousands of others; In material engineering the developments in metalurgy and plastics alone have permitted commercial development of things like more efficient air conditioners & heaters, lighter and stronger vehicles and aircraft (safer and better MPG), new smaller and stronger medical devices, better food packaging, cell phones, clothing materials, lightweight body protection and more. In production and manufacturing engineering things like hydro (water) jet and laser cutters. Better and stronger products produced using less energy and previously unknown technologies. In communications & electronics - cellular phones, lasers, microwaves (from years ago), micro cameras, LED lights, computers and micro processors, micro chips and micro circuits. Satellites - GPS's have changed everything from the way we navigate (cars, boats, aircraft) making trips faster, shorter and using less fuel to such things as reducing the amount of water and chemicals we use to grow our food & wine, and keeping the farmers tractor in a straight line as it traverses mile long fields. Robotics - better quality consistent fabrication of vehicles, faster and less expensive packaging and material handling, medical devices from surgical instruments to prosthetics, emergency search & rescue devices (police, fire, rescue, hazmat). Technology - radiation treatment, lasers and their hundreds of uses, microwave ovens, plazma. These aren't even a small representation of the products or services we enjoy daily thanks to money spent in aerospace, aircraft and defense industries. The applications of the materials and technologies developed by the money spent on the space and aerospace programs are around us everywhere - the problem is you don't even recognize they originated with government funded (often defense department) R&D.. NOW, compare the return or benefits here compared to the billion a year we waste on paying corporate farmers NOT to grow crops, providing multiple cell phones to welfare recipients, giving welfare to driver's of Cadillacs and Mercedes, continuing programs that pay and encourage unwed mothers for having more children or any number of other federal programs where NO tangible benefit is received by the taxpayer / public.
tvsgael2
Sep 7, 2013 9:33 AM CDT
Given the moon is millions of years old, a significant mystery is why the dust on it isn't thousands of feet deep, or why it rings like a bell when struck. There may be many things that this mission could be trying to investigate, but we will never know their outcome, due to the sensitive nature of our "psyches", and NASA's unwillingness to tell their secrets.. On the other hand, refusing to investigate speculative theory, this mission could in all actuality be just what they say it is, a "duh" type of trip that will be filled with fun facts for Mr Roger's science class of students someday. The mysterious glow on it's surface has been deemed safe to investigate by them, in terms of a being matter of natural science phenomena - at least let's hope so, because if it isn't, they will never tell...
crankydude
Sep 7, 2013 8:11 AM CDT
Obscenely pissing our hard earned money away like we are all just drones and slaves