NASA's new moon probe settles into lunar orbit

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Oct 7 - Politics may
be keeping most of NASA's workers home,
but that didn't stop the U.S. space agency's
new moon probe from achieving lunar orbit,
officials said on Monday.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment
Explorer, or LADEE, blasted off on September
6 aboard a small rocket that placed the
spacecraft into a highly elliptical orbit around
Earth.
After three trips around the planet, LADEE on
Sunday was in precise position to fire its
braking rocket, let itself be captured by the
moon's gravity and then settle into lunar
orbit.
The timing was not ideal. The ongoing partial
shutdown of the U.S. government has
sidelined about 97 percent of the NASA's
18,000 employees.
But among those still on the job were
LADEE's flight controllers, who monitored the
do-or-die maneuver, said deputy project
scientist Greg Delory, with NASA's Ames
Research Center in Moffett Field, California.
Over the next two weeks, LADEE will tweak
its orbit so that it ends up about 155 miles
above the lunar surface, an ideal vantage
point for studying the gases surrounding the
moon and search for electrically charged dust
rising from the ground.
The government furlough also was not
expected to impact a LADEE laser
communications demonstration slated for
later this month, Delory said.
Last week, NASA brought back workers
preparing a new Mars orbiter for launch on
November 18. Skeleton crews, meanwhile,
are overseeing NASA's communications
satellites and science probes.