"Water's migration across the surface either happens or it doesn't," Elphic said. "It may be able to hop across the surface and if it does it has ramifications for the sequestration of ice at the lunar poles. It's one pathway."
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LADEE looked for signs of Chang'e 3's arrival into lunar orbit on Dec. 6, which also required a thruster burn, but did not see anything.
So far, LADEE, which began collecting science data on Nov. 20, has found unexpectedly large amounts of dust flying off the lunar surface, including what appears to be dust plumes scientists believe are due to a meteoroid impact.
"As soon as we opened the cover on LDEX (the Lunar Dust Experiment instrument) they began seeing dust impacts on the instrument. Even in our 250-kilometer (155-mile) altitude orbit, they were seeing roughly one impact per minute, maybe a little less, as they circled the moon.
"They were so stunned by those initial impacts that they wanted us to turn the instrument around, face in the opposite direction, so they couldn't possibly see any dust impacts on the instrument and indeed they saw nothing, so the instrument was clearly operating as designed," Elphic said.