NASA's LADEE spacecraft to impact Moon
Another lunar mission is drawing to a close, if not with a bang, then a thump. On Thursday, NASA held a press conference to discuss the final weeks of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission before the spacecraft makes a controlled impact on the far side of the Moon on or before April 21.
Since its launch last year, LADEE has been sending back data with the aim of providing scientists with a better understanding of the dust and tenuous atmosphere around the Moon, as well as a demonstration on the use of lasers for deep-space communications.
Now reaching the end of its extended science mission, ground controllers at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, are preparing to move the spacecraft gradually into a very low lunar orbit only about 1 to 2 mi (2 to 3 km) above the lunar surface.
According to NASA, natural orbital decay will soon bring LADEE down. Unfortunately, the nature of the Moon’s gravity means that it isn't possible to target LADEE to hit on a specific spot. This is why the impact is planned for the far side, so the spacecraft won’t pose a threat of contaminating historic landing sites on the near side.