Why NASA Is Heading to the Moon to Study Dust

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Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- NASA scientist Rick Elphic discusses NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission with Cory Johnson on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West." (Source: Bloomberg)

It will spend 100 days orbiting the moon studying the dust that showed up on the apollo mission.

Rick joins me right now.

Talk to me about when this dust was first observed and what we thought of it at the time.

It was first observed by a robot that landed on the surface of the moon.

A series of robots in the 60s. it was seen as a glow against the horizon after the sunset.

That sort of pointed to the possibility of levitated or electrostatic lofted.

The astronauts looked out of their command module window and before the orbital sunrise, they could see a horizon grow from that altitude.

And streamers like you would see in the rosy fingered dawn before the sun comes up.

Since the moon has very little atmosphere, it can't be the kind of dust or light scattering process that we see on earth.

The question was, what is it?

What is the mystery behind this glow?

What could it be accurate where might these kind of answers be found?

And where might they leave?

People have speculated this is very fine dust, electrically charged and launched into high altitudes by the surface charge of the moon.

That is a good deer he, but no one ever been able to test it because no one has flown in that kind of orbit with the kind of instrumentation needed to answer that question.

That is why the mystery has been there for over 40 years.

How is this spacecraft different from what came before?

What is the technology?

There is a lot of fairly new technology involved in the structure of the spacecraft to make it more light weight.

Some of the things we used to put the spacecraft together were commercial off-the-shelf parts from spaceflight providers like other business systems out there building subsystems for geosynchronous commercial satellites, and indications satellites, directv kind of things.

We used those to decrease the cost and buy something that is reliable and orbit around the moon as well.

This stuff that brought you nfl season ticket is going to bring you the dust from the moon as well.

Can it do other things as well?

It is a modular design that is built of segments and pieces that have different functions and different purposes.

Depending on what your needs are for another mission whether it be mars or other planets in the solar system, you would put the modules that you have together differently depending on the need.

It is something that you built piece by piece according to the need of the mission.

Each piece is predesigned and ready for you to use.

Apollo led to so much other business and innovation outside of space, is there still that possibility here?

Or maybe not as much of a big business world created by this particular space launch?

There is no question we have a large number of partners in the commercial sector that contributed to this.

While we tried to keep the cost down and the subsystems that are not necessarily cutting-edge but very reliable, there is still plenty of room within nasa mission design and future missions to plan into space.

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.


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