NASA moon mission caught in dust-up

Staff Reports
NASA moon mission caught in dust-up
Courtesy of NASA

      Want to study the moon? Join the crowd. 

      A planned Chinese mission in December could interfere with active NASA research of the moon, scientists say.
      In September, NASA sent a Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)  on "a robotic mission that will orbit the moon to gather detailed information about the lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface and environmental influences on lunar dust,” the space agency says. “A thorough understanding of these characteristics will address long-standing unknowns, and help scientists understand other planetary bodies as well.”
         The spacecraft's first days in orbit were dedicated to checking the scientific equipment, the agency said.  NASA announced Nov. 22 that LADEE was ready to begin its primary work.
          But there may be a hitch. In December, China plans to launch the Chang 3 moon rover.  The spacecraft will be the first that China has landed on a celestial body, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.  That could spell problems for LADEE.     
        "The arrival of the Chang 3 spacecraft into lunar orbit and then its descent to the surface will result in a significant contamination of the lunar exosphere by the propellant," Jeff Plescia, a space scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., told the website.
         But it could also create an opportunity to study how propellant becomes distributed into the lunar exosphere. Cooperation between American and Chinese governments could enhance both missions, one scientist told

       Lunar possibilities

       After his presidential campaign fizzled, Newt Gingrich recalled that his wife, Callista, had told him he should never have said these two words: moon colony.
     Taking the role of a visionary, Gingrich had spoken of creating a colony within the next decade. Faster than you can say lunar eclipse, the wise guys of “Saturday Night Live” wrote a memorable sketch depicting Gingrich and his wife in space suits.
     But Gingrich may have the last laugh. The website Mental Floss outlines 15 ambitious plans to colonize the moon dating from 1954, when science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke “proposed the idea of constructing a lunar base with inflatable modules covered in lunar dust for insulation.”
       Other, more recent plans include:

  • NASA's research into possible lunar farming.
  • The possibility of storing human DNA on the moon in the event of global disaster.
  • Using the moon as a stepping stone or way station for colonization of other planets.