It’s Nominal! LADEE En route to the Moon

If you happened to be playing the Orbital Science’s drinking game, you might have lost track somewhere around 5th stage ignition, but after a flawless countdown and launch, the 844 lb. LADEE probe is on the way to the Moon. Taking off right on time, the Minotaur V continued Orbital’s very good year, boosting the NASA Ames built spacecraft on a leisurely course of “phasing loops” which will see it eventually captured by the Moon’s gravity and arriving in a lunar orbit in just under a month.   After establishing an initial retrograde orbit at 250 km, the spacecraft will gradually lower its orbit to a 20 to 50 kilometer range, with the  variation due to local changes in the Moon’s gravity.  After a 100 day science mission, LADEE will be subsequently crashed into the lunar surface, ironically kicking up a little more dust it will no longer be around to study.

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