The ambitious moon mission led by NASA developed some technical glitch soon after its launch early on Saturday.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft quickly ran into equipment trouble after the launch. However, NASA on early Saturday assured everyone that the lunar probe was safe and on a perfect track for the moon. Meanwhile, officials acknowledged the problem needs to be resolved in the next two to three weeks.
NASA’s robotic lunar explorer ‘LADEE’ was launched on Saturday 0327 GMT aboard a Minotaur V rocket — a converted peacekeeping missile – from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
NASA is hopeful of unraveling more of the Moon’s mysteries by the unmanned mission to study its atmosphere. Notably, it is US space agency’s third such probe in five years.
After launch, LADEE aims to hurtle itself beyond Earth’s orbit so it can circle the Moon, first cruising at a height of about 250 kilometres for just over a month, and then moving lower to 20 to 60 kilometres from the surface for the science portion of its mission.
It is carrying an Earth-to-Moon laser beam technology demonstration and three main tools, including a neutral mass spectrometer to measure chemical variations in the lunar atmosphere and other tools to analyse exosphere gasses and lunar dust grains, NASA said.
“These measurements will help scientists address longstanding mysteries, including: was lunar dust, electrically charged by solar ultraviolet light, responsible for the pre-sunrise horizon glow that the Apollo astronauts saw?” NASA said.
Other instruments will seek out water molecules in the lunar atmosphere.
Since US astronauts last walked on the moon four decades ago, rocket scientists have learned that there is more to the Moon than just a dusty, desolate terrain.
Recent NASA robotic missions such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have returned troves of images detailing the Moon’s cratered surface, while NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) revealed how being pummelled by asteroids resulted in the Moon’s uneven patches of gravity.
A previous NASA satellite, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite(LCROSS) discovered water ice when it impacted in 2009, the space agency said.
The Moon’s atmosphere is so thin that its molecules do not collide, in what is known as an exosphere.