The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, has crashed into the moon. Photo: NASA
Florida: A robotic US spacecraft ended a pioneering mission to map dust and gases around the moon with a planned, kamikaze crash into the lunar surface early on Friday, NASA officials said.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, had been flying at increasingly lower altitudes to study how dust is lifted off the lunar surface and what gases comprise the moon's so-called exosphere - the region of space surrounding the airless moon.
NASA officials had planned to crash the spacecraft into the moon, after it transmitted its final batch of data.
Before hitting the lunar surface, LADEE was traveling at 5790 km/h, three times faster than a high-powered rifle bullet, so the spacecraft not only broke apart upon impact, but pieces of it likely vapourised.
"There's nothing gentle about impact at these speeds," lead scientist Rick Elphic, with NASA'
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