China's mission to land a robotic probe on the moon next month has potential pluses and minuses for a NASA mission already underway there, according to a report in Space.com.
China is getting its Chang'e 3 moon lander to launch on top of a rocket as part of a mission to orbit and eventually land on the moon to conduct a probe with a solar-powered lunar rover.
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But already there is the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), part of a NASA project to study the moon’s dust environment and exosphere (outer fringe region). Some experts believe the Chinese project has the potential to complicate the LADEE’s mission.
The Chang'e 3 spacecraft’s arrival orbiting the moon “and then its descent to the surface will result in a significant contamination of the lunar exosphere by the propellant," said space scientist Jeff Plescia, who works at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., according to Space.com
But Plescia, who also serves as chairman of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, which helps the agency plan scientific projects on the moon, said the Chang’e 3’s mission also created an opportunity to bolster scientific knowledge.
Release of the propellant would enable LADEE “to observe how the propellant becomes distributed into the lunar exosphere and then how it is later removed," he said.
Sarah Noble, a LADEE program scientist, said that by learning about the moon, scientists can gain a better understanding of “other small bodies in the solar system, such as asteroids, Mercury, and the moons of outer planets," Natureworldnews.com reported.
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