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NASA's LADEE spacecraft set to end mission by crashing into moon

By Kyle Johnson,

NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer is about set to complete its mission by smashing into the moon at the end of April.

The spacecraft has been orbiting the moon since October after launching in early September and with its fuel nearly depleted, it is slowly altering its orbit to prepare for a planned crash into the moon, reports the Washington Post. The lowered orbit will allow the LADEE to collect some additional data ahead of its smashing finale.

The spacecraft's primary mission is to collect data on the lunar atmosphere and the lunar dust. NASA hopes the information collected will help provide answers relating to other celestial bodies in the solar system.

To celebrate the impending demise of LADEE, NASA has created the "Take the Plunge" challenge, which invites people to sign up and guess when the doomed spacecraft will crash into the moon. Those interested in signing up have until April 11. Should you guess correctly, you'll be awarded a commemorative LADEE certificate.

Project manager Butler Hine said in a statement that the moon's atmosphere makes it hard to be sure exactly when the spacecraft will crash.

"The moon's gravity field is so lumpy, and the terrain is so highly variable with crater ridges and valleys that frequent maneuvers are required or the LADEE spacecraft will impact the moon's surface," Hine said.

 
 

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