WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — There's nothing else quite like standing in front of a brand-new rocket before it launches. NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer spacecraft, set to launch today (Sept. 6) from here at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility is now tucked away inside the Minotaur V rocket that will catapult it out of Earth's atmosphere, sending it on a journey to the moon.
The sun glinted off the rocket yesterday as technicians made final preparations before the launch scheduled for 11:27 p.m. EDT (0327 Sept. 7 GMT) tonight. A few of the workers took photos of one another and stopped to wave at the crowd below. Journalists and members of the public were snapping pictures and excitedly talking about the impending launch staring up at the rocket sitting on Pad 0B of Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. [Photos: NASA's LADEE Moon Dust Mission]
There is much cause for excitement about NASA's next mission to the moon. LADEE is heading into lunar orbit to investigate a moon dust mystery dating back to the Apollo era. Apollo astronauts saw a strange glow on the moon's horizon before sunrise. LADEE's scientific instrumentation could help scientists understand if that glow was caused by particles of dust in the lunar atmosphere. The launch should be visible, weather permitting, along the East Coast of the United States. Find out how you can watch the launch live here.
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Miriam Kramer joined Space.com as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as Space.com's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight. Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.