The Time When NASA Intentionally Crashed Its Moon Mission

NASA is highly particular about its safety records. So it may come as a surprise when the space agency crashed during one of its own Lunar Missions.

But the clincher is, it did it on purpose.

Last year in September, NASA had launched Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or as it is fondly referred to as, LADEE. The launch was perfect and as reported by The Inquisitr, people all over the world got to witnessed live coverage via the wonder of internet streaming.

LADEE was a robotic mission that orbited earth’s moon to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine if dust is being lofted into the lunar sky. A thorough understanding of these characteristics of our nearest celestial neighbor was supposed to help researchers understand other celestial bodies in the solar system, such as Mercury, outer planets’ moons and larger asteroids.

The mission was developed and built at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Incidentally, LADEE was the first moon launch from Wallops Flight Facility and the first launch of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Minotaur V rocket. LADEE sent across a lot of fascinating information that NASA will be studying for quite some time.

Despite being a successful mission, LADEE’s end was quite brutal, when NASA intentionally crashed it on the lunar surface. The NASA’s moon exploring robot was obliterated when it impacted the surface of the moon, as planned last weekend, the US space agency announced, reported The Guardian.

At its last moments LADEE was travelling at a speed of 3,600 miles (5,700 km) per hour, which is 3 times as fast a speeding bullet, reported Daily Press. The core reason for the mediated suicide dive was the lack of fuel. LADEE was critically low on fuel to continue on a long–term lunar orbit or continue science operations. So NASA engineers deliberately set its course to a direct collision with the moon.

Artist Rendering Of LADEE Crash

By simply tweaking the spacecraft’s trajectory, NASA intentionally ”decayed” its orbit, till the moon pulled LADEE to its far side. Essentially, LADEE’s orbit was lowered to 300 feet from lunar surface for a definite crash. The precision managed impact enabled the crash to take place on the far side of the moon, safely away from the Apollo relics like flags, rovers, plaques and footprints by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin between 1969 and 1972.

It is indeed sad to see NASA intentionally crashing one of its million dollar projects, but LADEE successfully completed its mission objectives, confirmed the agency. In fact, the crash was intended to happen before the lunar eclipse that gave the elusive blood–red moon. But LADEE miraculously survived. Incidentally, LADEE also hosted NASA’s first dedicated system for two-way communication using laser instead of radio waves.

[Images Via Bing]