NASA Ames sends robotic explorer to moon

September 6, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
America is on its way back to the moon and the scientists at NASA Ames in Mountain View are leading the way. Friday night they launched an exploration satellite that they designed, built and tested themselves.

Thousands of people gathered at Moffett Field in Mountain View to watch the launch. They did everything at NASA Ames except for launch it. The rocket took off from NASA's Virginia Flight Center and everyone at Ames got to watch it on a giant inflatable screen.

Thousands came out to witness what had never been done before. For the first time, local scientists designed, built, and tested their own lunar space explorer called LADEE, which stands for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.

"It's exciting. It's a wonderful time to be at Ames," said Anupa Bajwa, a software engineer.

"This is a great capability to make NASA Ames a flight center where we can make our own satellites, build them and fly them from here," said John Carrico, a flight dynamics engineer.

We asked David Stockholm, a kid from San Francisco, how many astronauts are on LADEE and he responded, "Zero."

He's right. It's a 180-day unmanned mission to explore the moon's dust, which is like microscopic glass. Among the experiments is an attempt to send complex data from deep space to Earth using laser light instead of radio waves.

"To download a high definition movie from the moon would take hundreds of hours, using current technology and with a laser communication system we can do it in under 10 minutes," said Gregory Delory, a deputy project scientist.

Investors on Wall Street are watching closely because it could revolutionize the way we communicate.

There's not enough fuel for LADEE to return on this mission, so NASA will crash it into the moon. But its part of a new reusable, low cost generation of space craft and now more could be built at Ames.

The six-month mission costs $280 million.


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