The probe, launched in September 2013 was sent to study the Moon’s atmosphere and improve our knowledge of lunar dust. It successfully completed its mission before intentionally crashing into the surface of the Moon on April 18.
LADEE’s impact crater
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) recently photographed a new lunar crater which researchers claim is LADEE’s final resting place. It is located 0.2 miles north of the predicted landing spot, on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater on the far side of the moon.
“I’m happy that the LROC team was able to confirm the LADEE impact point,” Butler Hine, LADEE project manager at Ames Research Center in California, said in a press release. “It really helps the LADEE team to get closure and know exactly where the product of their hard work wound up.”
LADEE’s slow speed, low mass and low density made for an impact crater just 10 feet in diameter, incredibly hard for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) to spot. A piece of technology called the Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) allows scientists to compare before-and-after images of the same lunar sites, which allowed them to spot the tiny crater.
The death of LADEE and the discovery of her lunar grave does not mean that study of the Moon is finished. The LRO has been constantly sending back amazing images of the surface of the moon since its launch on 18 September 2009.
“With LRO, NASA will study our nearest celestial neighbor for at least two more years,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “LRO continues to increase our understanding of the Moon and its environment.”
Those with an interest in lunar exploration can also look forward to planned manned missions and the establishment of a lunar base, both of which NASA says it is working towards making a reality.