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The Once and Future Moon

Unplanned (But Controlled) Experiments: The Role of Serendipity

30 Oct 2013, 14:16 UTC
Unplanned (But Controlled) Experiments: The Role of Serendipity
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Two spacecraft arrive at the Moon at the same time and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The Chang’E 3 spacecraft sets down on the Moon. Exhaust gas from rocket changes the lunar exosphere.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft is currently circling the Moon. With the spacecraft safely settled into its observation orbit, the mission science team is busy testing and calibrating its instruments. This U.S. mission was designed to characterize the lunar “atmosphere” – the extremely tenuous zone of gases that vary in time in the space above the Moon. Technically called an exosphere, this region contains extremely low concentrations of a variety of elements and compounds, of varied origins and a largely unknown life cycle. LADEE is designed to monitor and characterize these species, with the goal of identifying the process and sources of the gases and how they vary with time.
Initially a precursor to human lunar return, LADEE was selected for development early in 2008, as we wanted to understand the lunar exosphere before the lunar environment was contaminated by humans. The LADEE spacecraft is designed to observe the Moon in its natural, pristine state. However, the very ...

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