NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) Mission provides a variety of exciting opportunities for students and the public to become directly involved in the mission. These activities range from those appropriate for kindergarten through 12th grade students (K-12), to those appropriate for university and college students, as well as advanced amateur astronomers. The LADEE Mission works closely with the NASA Lunar Science Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., and the NASA Lunar Quest Program Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., to offer these programs.
Student Spacecraft Tracking and Monitoring
Antenna for the Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope Program at sunset.
Image credit: NASA
LADEE is partnering with the Lewis Center for Educational Research and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., to provide students across the country and around the world the opportunity to help track and monitor the status of the LADEE spacecraft in flight. The Goldstone Apple Valley Radio Telescope (GAVRT) program allows students in their classrooms to remotely control giant 34-meter deep space communication dishes at NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Communications Network in Goldstone, Calif. These dishes are ideal for conducting a wide range of radio astronomy research projects. During the LADEE mission, students will monitor the carrier signal from the LADEE spacecraft, perform Doppler measurements around the firing of the spacecraft's main thruster and listen for changes that might indicate a change in spacecraft status. K-12 teachers interested in more information and learning how to receive GAVRT training can visit the GAVRT website.
Meteoroid Impact Observation Program
Artist rendering of a small, powerful meteor strike on the moon.
Image credit: NASA
Scientists believe meteoroid impacts are among the major sources for the lunar exosphere and lofted dust. Telescopes with apertures from eight to 14 inches are ideal to detect and record flashes from meteoroid impacts on the lunar surface. Telescopes of this size are common among schools and amateur astronomers. Impact flashes recorded with a astronomical video camera with an accurate time stamp are of great scientific value. During the LADEE Mission, NASA would like to maximize the number of observers watching for and recording lunar meteoroid impacts to correlate these events with any changes LADEE's instruments might detect in the structure and composition of the lunar atmosphere. LADEE is partnering with the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers Lunar Meteoritic Impact Search program in this effort. For additional information, visit NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office webpage including their FAQ PDF, minimum system requirements PDF and free software to help detect impact flashes captured in the videos. Brian Cudnik's book "Lunar Meteoroid Impacts and How to Observe Them," contains a wealth of information that also will be of value to observers participating in this program.
1999 Leonid storm as seen from Leonid MAC with 50 mm camera.
Image credit: Shinsuke Abe and Hajime Yano, ISAS.
People who do not have access to telescopes like those required for the Meteoroid Impact Observation Program, can still make observations that could be of significant value to the LADEE Mission. The majority of impactors on the lunar surface are very small, too small to create flashes visible from Earth. However, because the Earth and Moon travel together through space, they encounter streams of cosmic debris together. When an object even as small as a grain of sand enters Earth's atmosphere at high speed, it can become quite evident as a meteor lighting up the night sky. By observing and recording rates of meteors visible here on Earth, scientists can make inferences regarding small impacts on the moon's surface. During meteor counting, excellent observations can be made with the unaided eye. There are no equipment requirements; to conduct observations; no telescopes or binoculars are needed, though a reclining lawn chair makes counting much more comfortable. During the LADEE Mission, NASA would like to have as many people as possible making and submitting meteor counts so scientists can compare that data to what LADEE's instruments record. The International Meteor Organization is an excellent source of information about how to observe meteors and submit meteor counts. As is the case for almost everything today: there's even an app for that. Meteor Counter is a free app developed by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. It allows observers to use their iPhones (and soon Android phones) to easily record meteor count observations and send their data directly to NASA.
International Observe the Moon Night
Each year, amateur and professional astronomers, lunar scientists, NASA centers, schools, museums, planetariums, and observatories collectively hold hundreds of public events around the world in celebration of International Observe the Moon Night. At these events, the public can learn about the moon, NASA's missions of lunar science and exploration, and even make their own first-hand lunar observations through telescopes. In 2013, International Observe the Moon Night will fall on Saturday, Oct. 12. To learn more about International Observe the Moon Night, visit their website. The LADEE mission is a proud participant in the planning and organization of International Observe the Moon Night.
For more information on LADEE education and public outreach:
Contact Brian Day, LADEE education and public outreach lead:
The LADEE mission is a cooperative effort led by NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. NASA Ames will manage the mission, build the spacecraft and perform mission operations and Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., will perform environmental testing, launch vehicle integration and manage the LADEE payload office. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages LADEE within the Lunar Quest Program Office. NASA Wallops Flight Facility will be responsible for the management of launch services, including providing vehicle engineering support and launch range operations.