WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- U.S. space agency NASA said Saturday its moon probe has encountered some equipment problems shortly after Friday night's launch but it was "not an unusual event" and had no impact on its flight to Earth's nearest neighbor.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) blasted off aboard a Minotaur V rocket at 11:27 p.m. Friday (0327 GMT Saturday) from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.
Although NASA described the launch as being successful, the LADEE commanded itself to shut down the reaction wheels used to position and stabilize the spacecraft after its separation from the rocket, reportedly because of consuming too much current.
The agency played down the situation saying that there was no need to worry about.
"The LADEE spacecraft is working as it was designed to under these conditions -- there's no indication of anything wrong with the reaction wheels or spacecraft," said Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center, which is leading the LADEE mission.
"The LADEE spacecraft is communicating and is very robust. The mission team has ample time to resolve this issue before the small car-sized spacecraft reaches lunar orbit. We don't have to do anything in a rush," Worden said in a statement.
According to NASA, LADEE team members are currently evaluating the reaction wheels. Normal checkout takes a couple of days, and this anomaly may add a couple more days to the process, it said.
"This is not an unusual event in spacecraft. We plan in the next few days to complete spacecraft checkout," Worden said. "We' re on our way to the moon, it's on a perfect trajectory."
Unlike the zippy three-day trip that Apollo astronauts took four decades ago, it will take about 30 days for the small car- sized spacecraft to reach the moon.
The 280-million-U.S.-dollar mission will gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere and study how moon dust behaves above the lunar surface, according to NASA.
Some Apollo astronauts reported seeing a strange glow on the moon's horizon before sunrise during NASA's lunar landing missions in the 1960s and 1970s. Scientists think this may have been caused by electrically charged moon dust, a theory that the LADEE is expected to test.
Once it reaches the moon, the LADEE will begin its 40-day commissioning phase, the first 30 days of which the spacecraft will be performing activities high above the moon's surface.
These activities include testing a high-data-rate laser communication system that will enable higher rates of satellite communications similar in capability to high-speed fiber optic networks on Earth.
Next, the LADEE is expected to spend about 100 days studying the lunar environment before running out of fuel and crashing into the moon's surface.
There are no plans to target the impact points on the lunar surface, and if the spacecraft's fuel is depleted and orbital decay occurs naturally, the point of impact may not be in sight of Earth, NASA said.