The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer also known as LADEE was launched from the Wallops Flight Facility on 06 September 2013 on a mission that would take it to the moon with four main goals:
Determine the global density, composition, and time variability of the tenuous lunar exosphere before it is perturbed by further human activity;
Determine if the Apollo astronaut sightings of diffuse emission at tens of kilometers above the surface were sodium glow or dust;
Document the dust impactor environment (size, frequency) to help guide design engineering for the outpost and also future robotic missions;
Demonstrate two-way laser communication from lunar orbit.
The laser communication demonstration was successful and a download link of 622 megabits/sec was attained. The science data I think is still being studied.
The mission ended with a controlled interface with the lunar surface (it crashed on purpose) on 18 April 2014 at a velocity of 5,800 km/sec or 3,600 mph.
A look at Neptune and one of its moons Triton from New Horizons spacecraft on 10 July 2014. When the image was taken, New Horizons had not crossed the orbit of Neptune. At the orbit crossing New Horizons was actually closer to Pluto than Neptune.
Coming up very soon, on 06 December 2015 New Horizons will exit sleep mode for the last time. The spacecraft has periodically gone in and out of sleep mode so there shouldn’t be any surprises. From then on the spacecraft will be fully awake and very shortly after will start taking science data. We should get some tantalizing views of the Plutonian system from the same camera that took the one above: New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI).
Another bit of information from the flight of Ebb and Flow the twin spacecraft of the GRAIL mission. Essentially a topographical map blended with a gravity map to show gravitational anomalies thanks to the combined input from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Grail.
Best to let NASA explain:
Topography of Earth’s moon generated from data collected by the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, with the gravity anomalies bordering the Procellarum region superimposed in blue. The border structures are shown using gravity gradients calculated with data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission. These gravity anomalies are interpreted as ancient lava-flooded rift zones buried beneath the volcanic plains (or maria) on the nearside of the Moon.
The twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft, Ebb and Flow, gathered data during their mission while orbiting the moon and they give us a little bit of an explanation of what the results show.
A view of Earth’s moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. The gravity anomalies along the border structures are interpreted as ancient, solidified, lava-flooded rifts that are now buried beneath the surface of the dark volcanic plains, or maria, on the near side of the moon.
The MAVEN spacecraft will enter a Martian orbit on 21 September. After a six-week period of fine tuning the orbit and scientific instruments the spacecraft will begin to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.
NOTE: The SpaceX launch has changed the launch date and time – see the previous post.