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Quick Facts: Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)

Mission Introduction

LADEE Spacecraft

NASA’s LADEE mission will orbit the moon to characterize the atmosphere and lunar dust environment. (Courtesy NASA/Ames)

LADEE is designed to characterize the tenuous lunar atmosphere and dust environment from orbit.

The scientific objectives of the mission are:

  1. Determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the fragile lunar atmosphere before it is perturbed by further human activity.
  2. Determine the size, charge, and spatial distribution of electrostatically transported dust grains and assess their likely effects on lunar exploration and lunar-based astronomy.


Further objectives are to determine if the Apollo astronaut sightings of diffuse emission at 10s of km above the surface were Na glow or dust and document the dust impactor environment (size-frequency) to help guide design engineering for the outpost and also future robotic missions.

LASP Roles

LASP provides:

  • The Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX)
  • LDEX principal investigator, Mihály Horányi

LASP Instruments

The LDEX instrument is expected to provide new information on the physical characteristics of lunar dust, from its interactions with the moon’s atmosphere and the solar wind to astronaut safety issues.

The LASP-built Lunar Dust EXperiment (LDEX)

LDEX is an impact ionization dust detector capable of detecting individual particles r > 0.3 micron with a design optimized to work in the UV environment. (Courtesy LASP)

Quick Facts

Launch date: September 6, 2013
Launch location: Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.
Launch vehicle: Minotaur V
Mission target: Earth’s Moon
Mission duration: Approximately 160 days (30 days to travel to the moon, 30 days for checkout and 100 days for science operations)
Other organizations involved:

  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

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