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A $6 million instrument built by the University of Colorado will fly to the moon this Friday with NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, a mission designed to better understand dust patterns within its tenuous atmosphere.
The $280 million mission will take about a month to reach the moon and another month to enter the proper elliptical orbit and begin collecting data from the instruments.
CU physics professor Mihaly Horanyi of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics is the principal investigator for the Lunar Dust Experiment, which is able to chart the existence, size and individual velocities of tiny dust particles as small as 0.6 microns in diameter. For comparison, a standard sheet of paper is about 100 microns thick.
“We are ready and excited for the launch,” Horanyi said in a CU press release. “What we see on the moon may well apply to Mercury, Phobos, Deimos or asteroids, which all have very tenuous atmospheres.”
The Lunar Dust Experiment, as well as many previous LASP instruments launched into space since the 1970s, will carry a laser engraving of the CU mascot, Ralphie, as well as the names of all those who participated in the project.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Gabriel Larsen-Santos at firstname.lastname@example.org