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NASA's Moon-Orbiting Robot Crashes Down

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 9:33am
MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer

In this artist's concept provided by NASA the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft is seen orbiting the moon as it prepares to fire its maneuvering thrusters to maintain a safe orbital altitude. NASA's small moon-orbiting spacecraft LADEE (pronounced LAH'-dee) is no more. Flight controllers confirmed early Friday April 18, 2014 that LADEE crashed into the back side of the moon. (AP Photo/NASA, Dana Berry)Cape Canaveral, FL (AP) — NASA's small moon-orbiting spacecraft LADEE (pronounced LAH'-dee) is no more. Flight controllers confirmed early Friday that LADEE crashed into the back side of the moon.

Researchers believe the robotic explorer vaporized upon contact because of its high orbiting speed of 3,600 mph, possibly smacking into a mountain or side of a crater. As of late Thursday afternoon, the spacecraft was flying 300 feet above the lunar surface. Its altitude had been lowered on purpose to ensure a crash by Monday.

LADEE — short for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer — was launched in September. It completed its main science mission last month and was on overtime.

 

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