NASA launching robotic explorer to moon

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A Minotaur V launch vehicle carrying the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) stands on the launch pad at Wallops Island, Va. on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. AP

NASA is poised to return to the moon.

An unmanned rocket is scheduled to blast off late Friday night (Saturday Manila time) from the U.S. with a robotic explorer that will study the lunar atmosphere and dust. The moon-orbiting craft will measure the thin lunar atmosphere.

Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon’s delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time. Another puzzle: whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface.

Unlike the quick three-day Apollo flights to the moon, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, will take a full month to get there.

Launch time is 0327 GMT.

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