Unmanned Moon mission lifts off from Virginia

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Spectators along the East Coast were dazzled at midnight by the launch of the unmanned Minotaur rocket. NASA expected the launch to be visible as far as Main (from the north) and as far as South Carolina (from the south). As part of a social media campaign NASA asked all spectators to post photos of the launch and share them via Flickr.

Among other things, the US space agency declared it was particularly interested to study the strange behavior of moon dust. According to top scientists moon dust appears to levitate above the surface. While many scientists believe the moon has no atmosphere there are some that say the Moon does in fact have one. Sarah Noble, programme scientist, hopes that the NASA mission will uncover the truth about this. She believes the moon has a very thin atmosphere, so thin that "the individual molecules are so few and far between that they don't interact with each other".

LADEE, which stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, will also test a new communication system which is based on lasers. NASA hopes that this communication system will one day replace the conventional radio connections.

 

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