NASA's Moon-Orbiting LADEE Will Crash Land This Month

NASA's moon-orbiting LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) spacecraft is expected to make a crash landing on the moon sometime this month, after having explored its thin atmosphere and lunar dust environment since October.

Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist, explained in a a news conference on April 3rd that this would in no way be "a landing you walk away from," so before LADEE crash lands and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter begins its search for all the little LADEE parts, it will explore the lunar dust up close — only a few kilometers above the moon's surface.

This up-close look will help to solve one of LADEE's missions: the origin (or existence) of a glow on the horizon of the moon that Apollo astronauts noticed occurring before sunrise. So far, LADEE hasn't recorded dust concentrations that would account for the glow.

LADEE project manager Butler Hine hopes the spacecraft holds out until accomplishing its mission: "Even if we perform all maneuvers perfectly, there's still a chance LADEE could impact the moon sometime before April 21, which is when we expect LADEE's orbit to naturally decay after using all the fuel onboard."

If you are so inclined, NASA has invited the public to guess the date that LADEE will crash into the moon's surface. Good luck, nerd!

[Image: Getty]