"New Views of the Moon: The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer"
Abstract: The National Research Council report The Scientific
Context for Exploration of the Moon (SCEM) lists studies of the pristine
state of the lunar atmosphere and dust environment as one of eight
major priorities for future lunar science missions. The Lunar Atmosphere
and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission is currently under
development to address this goal. The lunar atmosphere is primarily a
regolith-derived population of neutrals in the collisionless regime,
with each constituent forming its own exosphere. A host of processes are
capable of influencing exospheric dynamics at the Moon, including
meteoric influx, plasma sputtering, thermal and chemical effects, and
internal geophysical activity. Surface charging due to plasma currents
may also be conducive to the levitation and transport of lunar dust.
LADEE will study the tenuous lunar atmosphere both in situ and remotely
using a neutral mass spectrometer (NMS) and an ultra-violet/visible
spectrometer (UVS). The lunar dust experiment (LDEX) will study the dust
population, which may be of either lunar or interplanetary origin.
LADEE is a low-cost lunar orbiter managed by the NASA Ames Research
Center (ARC) in cooperation with the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC),
and is designed to be compatible with light lift capability launch
vehicles. LADEE is an important component in NASA’s portfolio of
near-term lunar missions, addressing both science and exploration
objectives not covered by other U.S. or international efforts, and whose
observations should be conducted before large scale human or robotic
activities perturb the tenuous and fragile lunar environment.