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UH Hilo Student to Witness Historic Lunar Launch

A University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo student will participate in the launch of NASA’s latest lunar probe, LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) at the Mid-Atlantic Test Range in Virginia.

LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer)

LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer)

Sophomore Krystal Schlechter spent the past summer as an intern with the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) under the Akamai Workforce Initiative. She was responsible for managing the Lunar Impact Observing Program, which involved coordinating student and community volunteers who used small C-11 telescopes to observe faint flashes produced by meteor impacts on the unlit portion of the moon.

The video data was processed to isolate and identify candidate impacts, then sent to NASA’s global impact database. Schlechter also presented her work to the NASA Lunar Science Forum during a virtual online conference this past summer.

LADEE is designed to study the Moon’s thin and tenuous atmosphere, or “exosphere” and the lunar dust environment to help scientists understand other planetary bodies with exospheres like Mercury and some of Jupiter’s bigger moons. The mission will also examine the density, temporal and spatial variability of dust particles that may get lofted into the atmosphere.

The nearly 850-pound robotic spacecraft will be launched on top of a Minotaur V rocket as early as September 6, 2013 and will spend about 2 1/2 months reaching the Moon, getting into its science orbit, and checking systems before its 100-day scientific mission begins.

Schlechter and her mentor, John Hamilton (PISCES EPO and Test Logistics Manager), were invited by NASA to be part of the official launch effort and joins the Public Outreach activities at the NASA Wallops Island Visitor Center.

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