BEIJING, Sep. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- NASA will this week launch a robotic space probe to study lunar dust and the thin atmosphere of the moon.
It said Tuesday the spacecraft is known as the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, and is commonly referred to as LADEE.
NASA will launch from Virginia at 23:27 U.S. Eastern Time on Friday with the new Minotaur 5 booster rocket being used for the first time to carry the craft into space.
LADEE will take about 30 days to reach the moon and settle into its final orbit, before spending 100 days carrying out scientific research.
Once it arrives at the moon, the probe will search for signs of lunar dust which could be responsible for a mysterious glow seen by Apollo astronauts on the moon's horizon in the lead-up to sunrise.
LADEE will also study the thin atmosphere of the moon, which is known as a surface boundary exposure and is the most common type of atmosphere in the solar system.
John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's science mission directorate, said the mission would build on the work of several previous probes. "With the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which is still in orbit around the moon, we've learned an enormous amount about the surface of the moon," he said.