SMART-1 Towards Final Impact
4 August 2006
SMART-1, the successful first European spacecraft to the Moon, is now about to end its exploration adventure, after almost sixteen months of lunar science investigations.
SMART-1 was launched on 27 September 2003, and it reached the Moon in November 2004 after a long spiralling around Earth. In this phase, the spacecraft tested for the first time in space a series of advanced technologies.
These included the first use of an ion engine (solar electric propulsion) for interplanetary travels, in combination with gravity assist manoeuvres.
SMART-1 also tested future deep-space communication techniques for spacecraft, techniques to achieve autonomous spacecraft navigation, and miniaturised scientific instruments, used for the first time around the Moon.
Initially planned to operate six months around the Moon, SMART-1 was later given a mission extension of one further year, now about to be concluded. The spacecraft will hit the Moon surface through a small impact currently expected for 3 September 2006, at 07:41 CEST (05:41 UT) or at 02:37 CEST (00:37 UT), with an uncertainty due to the incomplete knowledge of the lunar topography. The expected coordinates for impact at 5:41 UT are about 36.44º south of latitude and 46.25º west of longitude.
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