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LADEE Launch: Watch NASA's lunar spacecraft leave Earth, right here


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NASA is sending a spacecraft to the moon Friday night, and you can watch as it leaves our planet, live, right here.

If all goes according to schedule, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer -- LADEE, for short -- will blast off at 8:27 p.m. PDT.

NASA will stream the launch live, and you can watch it in the video box above.

If all does not go according to plan, NASA said it will try again over the weekend.

While recent lunar missions have studied the moon's surface, and its uneven gravity, LADEE has been outfitted with a suite of instruments to help scientists learn more about the little-known lunar atmosphere.

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Yes, the moon has an atmosphere, LADEE program scientist Sarah Noble told the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago. "It's just really, really thin," she said. She added that the so-called exosphere is so sparse that its individual particles don’t even collide with one another.

Scientists don't know what makes up the moon's exosphere, and one of LADEE's missions will be to gather data to help them figure that out. 

The mission may also solve a lingering lunar mystery. In the '60s and '70s, Apollo astronauts observed a mysterious glow over the moon's horizon during the lunar sunrise. Some researchers have hypothesized that the glow is caused by dust particles that have become electrically charged by the sun. LADEE's measurements will hopefully provide a more conclusive answer.

The LADEE mission is expected to be relatively short -- just 160 days. It's orbit will take it between 31 miles and 93 miles above the lunar surface. 

And when the spacecraft runs out of fuel, NASA officials will end its life with a crash landing on the lunar surface, much like they did with the GRAIL twins Ebb and Flow. 

NASA officials and scientists will be speaking more about the science of the LADEE mission during a pre-launch broadcast that begins at 6:30 p.m. PDT. We'll be streaming that live in the video box above too, if you want to check it out.

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