Scientists have no illusions about the further fate of the NASA LADEE robotic probe, which investigated the lunar dust and the gas shell of the Moon. On April 21, if not earlier, the “Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer” will crash into the surface of the Moon and evaporate. But before his death, scientists hope to reach a new level by planning a LADEE flight literally over the surface of the moon.
Butler Hine, a project manager at the Ames Research Center at NASA in Moffett Field, California, told reporters during a conference call on Thursday: “There is a possibility that we may accidentally touch the moon mountain, but the risk is rather small. And, in fact, the scientific value of what we can get after this attempt is worth the risk. ”
“The first mission is completed, the case is in a hat,” added Joan Salute, LADEE program manager at NASA headquarters in Washington, “We would not allow this risky low-altitude flight attempt if all requirements were not met” .
Starting this week, LADEE will begin to lower the flight altitude until it is less than 2 miles from the surface of the moon. The danger of crashing into one of the lunar mountains is not the only one waiting for him. LADEE will face a prolonged period of potentially deadly cold during an April eclipse. Engineers warn that the propulsion system of a spacecraft may freeze and burst, although current forecasts show that LADEE will survive. “We will see what happens,” said Elphic. If LADEE survives to die another day, scientists will have a chance to get much more detailed information about how much dust is at low altitudes from the lunar surface. They would also like to get more measurements of the content of elements in the gas, including neon, magnesium, aluminum, titanium and oxygen, found in the so-called exosphere of the moon - the region of space surrounding the moon. “Every time we went to a lower orbit in the past, we found something new,” said Elfic.
In addition to obtaining a more detailed view of the moon, the data will be used to simulate the environments around other airless objects, including the ice dwarf planet Pluto, which next year will be the first to launch the NASA spacecraft.