NASA's LADEE Sends Its First Lunar Images Back To Earth
February 14, 2014

NASA’s LADEE Sends Its First Lunar Images Back To Earth

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) observatory has sent its first images of the moon back to Earth.

LADEE uses its star tracker instrument to help calibrate itself and determine its orientation in space. These images represent the first time that NASA officials have commanded LADEE to send images back to Earth.

"Star tracker cameras are actually not very good at taking ordinary images," Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, said in a statement. "But they can sometimes provide exciting glimpses of the lunar terrain."

The new images were taken on February 8 while LADEE was carrying out atmospheric measurements. The five images were taken at one-minute intervals and caught features in the northwestern hemisphere of the moon.

According to NASA, LADEE was traveling at about 60 miles per minute while taking the photos. The initial image taken was of the crater Krieger, which is about 14 miles in diameter. The second image features Wollaston P, which is about two-and-a-half miles in diameter.

“The third image caught a minor lunar mountain range, Montes Agricola, which is northwest of the large bright crater Aristarchus, as well as the flat-floored crater Raman, about six miles diameter,” NASA said in a statement.

The space agency added that the final image shows off Lichtenberg A and Schiaparelli E in the basalt plains of Western Oceanus Procellarum.

LADEE launched Sept. 6, 2013 and was designed to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky. The spacecraft completed its commissioning phase back in December -- lasting about one month -- and is getting ready to launch its main mission.

“The star trackers will operate while LADEE continues to measure the chemical composition of the atmosphere, collect and analyze samples of lunar dust particles in the atmosphere and hope to address a long-standing question: Was lunar dust, electrically charged by sunlight, responsible for the pre-sunrise glow above the lunar horizon observed during several Apollo missions? And who knows? The star trackers may help answer that question,” NASA said in a statement.