NASA launches robotic explorer to moon

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NASA’s newest robotic explorer has rocketed into space late Friday, in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia, dazzling sky watchers on the East Coast of the United States.

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer or LADEE, which is the size of a small car, is expected to reach the moon on 6, October. The spacecraft is charged with studying the lunar atmosphere and dust. It flew aboard an unmanned Minotaur rocket a little before midnight.

However, the spacecraft has run into equipment trouble with a problem that needs to be resolved in the next two to three weeks. But NASA said early Saturday, that the lunar probe was safe and on a perfect track for the moon, the Associated Press reported.

S. Peter Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center in California, which developed the spacecraft, told reporters he's confident everything will be working properly in the next few days, according to AP.

LADEE's reaction wheels were turned on to orient and stabilize the spacecraft, which was spinning too fast after it separated from the final rocket stage, Worden said. But the computer automatically shut the wheels down, apparently because of excess current. He speculated the wheels may have been running a little fast.

The NASA normally launches moon missions from Cape Canaveral in Florida but this time has provided a rare light show along the East Coast.

Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon's atmosphere and how it might change over time. Another decades-old question is whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface.

(With The Associated Press)

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