National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
 By Target   By Name   By Decade 
LADEE Mission to Earth's Moon

Goals: The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) was designed to study the Moon's thin exosphere and the lunar dust environment. Studying the Moon's exosphere will help scientists understand other planetary bodies with exospheres too, like Mercury and some of Jupiter's bigger moons.The mission tested several new technologies, including a modular spacecraft design and demonstrate two-way high rate laser communication for the first time from the Moon.

Accomplishments: During an extended mission, LADEE gathered detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere. Scientists hope to use the data to address a long-standing question: Was lunar dust, electrically charged by sunlight, responsible for the pre-sunrise glow seen above the lunar horizon during several Apollo missions?

LADEE also succeeded in key engineering tests. The mission proved the effectiveness of the new modular common spacecraft bus, or body, an innovation which could drastically reduce the cost of spacecraft development. It also hosted NASA's first dedicated system for two-way communication using laser instead of radio waves. The Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles from the moon to the Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits-per-second (Mbps). In addition, an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps was transmitted from the ground.

LADEE's final first before its planned impact on the lunar surface was completing more than 100 orbits at extremely low altitudes.

Moon - NASA's Lunar Portal
Key Dates
6 Sep 2013:  Launch (11:27 p.m. EDT)
6 Oct 2013:  Lunar Orbit Insertion
10 Nov 2013:  Science Mission Begins
17 Apr 2014:  Lunar Impact
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
LADEE Facts LADEE data will help determine the impact of increased human activity on the Moon's thin exosphere.

An exosphere is an atmosphere that is so thin and tenuous that molecules don't collide with each other.

Because the Moon's atmosphere is so thin, disturbances could quickly swamp its natural composition.

LADEE lacked fuel to maintain a long-term lunar orbit or continue science operations and was intentionally sent into the lunar surface. The spacecraft's orbit naturally decayed following the mission's final low-altitude science phase.

At the time of impact, LADEE was traveling at a speed of 3,600 miles per hour - about three times the speed of a high-powered rifle bullet.
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
Brian Lewis Brian Lewis
"I remember watching the stars and wondering what else could be out there to find and see ..." Read More...
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 19 Apr 2014