|An artist's concept of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft seen orbiting near the surface of the moon. Image credit: NASA Ames / Dana Berry|
By Martin Weil
The science spacecraft launched from Virginia’s coast last year has been orbiting the moon for months and is about to conclude its mission with a crash into the lunar surface, authorities said.
The unmanned spacecraft was the first to be sent from Virginia to the moon, NASA said.
With its primary scientific mission completed and its fuel almost exhausted, the intricate package of instruments is being lowered gradually into an orbit as little as a mile or two above the pocked and cratered surface of the moon, NASA said last week.
The orbit is designed to let the craft continue gathering data as close as possible to the surface, as a kind of scientific bonus.
It is also a prelude to the planned crash of the spacecraft — described as about the size of a vending machine or small car — into the far side of the moon.
NASA said it expects the craft to crash, crumple and break apart “on or before” April 21. . . .
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