NASA’s LADEE Mission (that’s “LAD-ee,” not “lady,” short for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer), managed by Ames Research Center in Mountain View, has sent back its first images from the moon.

So NASA made a nifty little gif out of them.

Five images captured by the LADEE spacecraft, on its mission to explain lunar dust. (NASA/Ames)

The five photos were taken at one-minute intervals on February 8th, as LADEE zoomed along the moon’s orbit at approximately 60 miles a minute.

NASA Ames provides a guide to the many craters captured in the images, including Krieger crater, about 14 miles in diameter, in the first image, and a lunar mountain range, Montes Agricola, in the third image.

LADEE’s lunar voyage is a $280-million attempt to answer a forty-two year-old mystery: Was it dust that caused those strange, colorful bands of light that Commander Eugene Cernan saw through the window of Apollo 17’s command module as it orbited the moon?

(For more on that – plus Cernan’s original sketch — here’s our post from last September.)

LADEE made for a striking light show when it passed over NYC back in September. It’ll orbit the moon for about three months, taking dust samples and beaming data back to Earth, while also experimenting with a new (and much faster) laser data transmission system.

Finally, LADEE will crash-land onto the surface of the moon, analyzing dust samples all the way until its bitter end.


Amy Standen

Amy Standen (@amystanden) is a radio reporter for KQED Science, where she reports on mental health and the future of medicine, among other topics. Her stories are frequently heard on NPR. She is also host of KQED’s short video series, Deep Look. Her email is and you can follow her on Twitter at @amystanden.

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