NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) has finally entered into orbit around the moon.
The explorer launched atop the first flight of the Minotaur V rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.
The explorer will probe the moon’s atmosphere gather information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and determine whether dust is being lofted into the lunar sky.
Before arriving in lunar orbit on Sunday, LADEE made three elliptical orbits around Earth. Each orbit was higher during each pass around the planet, allowing the moon’s gravity to take over on the third pass and transfer the explorer into lunar orbit.
Two more lunar orbit insertion maneuvers will be performed this week, according to the schedule. Afterwards, the explorer’s month-long checkout phase can begin.
During the checkout phase, the laser-communications system will be tested.
The technology allows LADEE to transmit data back to Earth using a laser light positioned on the moon.
NASA has struggled amidst the government shutdown but operations for the LADEE mission are not affected because it is in a “critical phase.”