A $280 million orbiter crashed into the moon and disintegrated yesterday, and NASA couldn't be happier about it. The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer met its end after completing a mission to orbit the moon and observe its atmosphere that began in September, reports the AP. In fact, LADEE lasted more than a month longer than expected, even surviving a lunar eclipse in its final week.
"It was all serendipitous" scientist Sarah Nobel tells the Christian Science Monitor. "We had no plan, when we launched, to have any kind of extended mission. But we did better than expected on the launch, and all of our fuel margins turned out to be better than we expected ... so we ended up with 140 days of science, instead of 100 days of science." Engineers were able to steer the satellite to the back side of the moon before the crash to avoid destroying any artifacts left behind by astronauts. (The launch of LADEE yielded a crazy photo of a frog leaping at the same time.)