NASA's moon-orbiting robot LADEE bites lunar dust
This artist's concept provided by NASA the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft is seen orbiting the moon as it prepares to fire its maneuvering thrusters to maintain a safe orbital altitude. (AP Photo/NASA, Dana Berry)
Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press
Published Friday, April 18, 2014 8:04AM EDT
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's small moon-orbiting spacecraft LADEE is no more. Flight controllers confirmed early Friday that LADEE crashed into the back side of the moon.
Researchers believe the robotic explorer vaporized upon contact because of its high orbiting speed of 5,793 kilometres per hour, possibly smacking into a mountain or side of a crater. As of late Thursday afternoon, the spacecraft was flying 91.4 metres above the lunar surface. Its altitude had been lowered on purpose to ensure a crash by Monday.
LADEE -- short for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer -- was launched in September. It completed its main science mission last month and was on overtime.