Friday, September 06, 2013

We're going back to the moon, kids. Tonight!

I'm not kidding.

No, we're not dusting off the old Saturn V, popping an Apollo capsule on top of it and lighting the ginormous candle. We're not pulling the space shuttle orbiters out of their museums and filling their cargo bays with extra fuel so they can make the longer trip to the moon (but, hey, wouldn't that be a rush?)

We are, however, reusing rocket segments from decommissioned Peacekeeper missiles (or for those of you who like to geek out on Cold War trivia, these were once known as the MX, or more formally the LGM-118) to launch a tiny, 844-pound satellite known as LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) into lunar orbit to study the moon's atmosphere. Yes, it has one. No, it won't support life. But it's still a pretty neat trick to send machinery there to study it.

The bird, sitting on a Minotaur 5 rocket, leaves the planet tonight (Friday) at 11:27 p.m. Eastern from its Wallops Island, Virginia (Virginia!) launchpad. You can watch it live here. More background on the mission is available here on SpaceflightNow, and the mission's homepage is here.

I'll be watching because, well, that's what geekfolk do late on a Friday night. Who's with me?

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