NASA engineers fixed a technical glitch with the administration's robotic explorer named LADEE, an Orbital Sciences Corp. Minotaur V rocket which is traveling toward the moon for its debut mission.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer dazzled the East coast with a colorful liftoff from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. Friday night, Space.com reported.
By Saturday afternoon, the glitch had been traced to safety limits programmed into LADEE before launch to protect the reaction wheel system, NASA officials said. The fault protection limits caused LADEE to switch off its reaction wheels. To fix the glitch, engineers disabled the safety limits restored the fault-protection protocols.
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"The reaction wheel issue noted soon after launched was resolved a few hours later," Pete Worden NASA Ames Research Center director, said, according to Space.com. "The LADEE spacecraft is healthy and communicating with mission operators."
NASA's Ames center, located in Moffett Field, Calif., near San Jose, developed and built the LADEE spacecraft, and is overseeing its mission operations.
Scientists will use the probe to learn more about the composition of the moon's delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time. Researchers hope to also discover whether moon dust actually levitates from the lunar surface, the Associated Press reported.
The blastoff Friday was a change of venue for NASA, which normally launches missions from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Sightings were reported all over the country -- from New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and New Jersey.
One could say LADEE is taking the scenic route to the moon, making three huge laps around Earth before getting close enough to pop into lunar orbit. Unlike the usual three-day Apollo flights, LADEE will spend a month traveling to reach Earth's closest neighbor.
The probe, which is the size of a small car, will arrive at the moon Oct. 6. The $280 million mission will conclude after six months, when the 844-pound spacecraft will hit the moon.
The probe has three science instruments as well as laser communication test equipment that could revolutionize data relay, according to the Associated Press.
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