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 bus that may reduce the cost of future deep space missions and demonstrate two-way high rate laser communication for the first time from the Moon.
Accomplishments: LADEE successfully demonstrated the multi-use spacecraft bus and laser communications system. The spacecraft's three science payload instruments took more than 700,000 measurements from a unique position that allows the spacecraft to frequently pass from lunar day to lunar night every two hours. This vantage provides data on the full range of changes and processes occurring within the moon's tenuous atmosphere. LADEE also gathered detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere. A thorough understanding of these characteristics of our nearest celestial neighbor will help researchers understand other bodies in the solar system, such as large asteroids, Mercury and the moons of outer planets.