NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft on Friday met its expected demise. Traveling at a speed of 3,600 miles per hour, the moon probe was sent hurtling into the lunar surface, reducing it to a pile of debris. Scientists haven’t had the opportunity to check out LADEE’s crash site just yet, but chances are it created its own “localized craterlet”—a visible reminder that mankind is capable of destroying everything it touches.
We already expected LADEE to be vaporized into space dust, it was just a matter of when; the probe had already performed its job, and was quickly running out of fuel, which was the intention all along. NASA will send another probe that’s currently orbiting the moon to check out LADEE’s crash site, and will even try to snap a picture. The craft was intended to crash on the “dark side” of the moon, meaning it’s not viewable from Earth.
“LADEE was a mission of firsts, achieving yet another first by successfully flying more than 100 orbits at extremely low altitudes,” said Joan Salute, LADEE program executive. “Although a risky decision, we’re already seeing evidence that the risk was worth taking.”
LADEE had only been orbiting since last September, but was able to collect important data about the thin lunar atmosphere, and learn more about moon dust. Before LADEE crashed into the moon, NASA actually challenged fans to guess when the spacecraft would meet its fate.
LADEE also attempted to solve a mystery that dates back to before the Apollo era; astronauts on the Apollo missions claimed they saw a glowing horizon just before sunrise, which scientists hypothesized was due to dust particles lifted into the thin lunar surface (exosphere). But data collected by LADEE has yet to confirm what the phenomena is.