NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) just passed its 100 day marker of scientific observations. It did a great job, skimming a mere 20 to 60 kilometres above the lunar surface. With its prime science done, and portrait snapped for posterity, now it's time to die.

Seriously, that's the next part of the plan. Now LADEE has complete the prime science mandate, it's going to be dropped into lower orbits, just barely skipping above the lunar surface. Sound risky? That's because it is. The ultimate plan is that sooner or later LADEE will miss an orbital correction, get caught in the moon's lumpy gravity field, and slam into the surface.


Gotta say, being a satellite explorer is a rough life compared to the robotic rovers that get to keep going and going and going...

Read more about the LADEE mission on SpaceRef.

Images: NASA for the photograph/model hybrid of LADEE snapped by the lunar orbiter, and for the LADEE suicide map