Thursday

11th Aug 2022

Europe reaches the moon

Europe’s first lunar spacecraft, SMART-1, has successfully cruised into orbit around the Moon.

"Europe has arrived at the Moon, we're in lunar orbit", said Professor David Southwood, director of science for the European Space Agency (ESA), according to the BBC.

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The spacecraft entered orbit late on Monday (15 November).

At the moment SMART-1’s solar-electric propulsion system is now being fired so that the space craft will eventually be stabilised in lunar orbit.

The engine will run for four days allowing SMART-1 to reach its final operational orbit by making ever-decreasing loops around the Moon.

By around mid-January next year, says a statement by the ESA, SMART-1 will be orbiting the Moon at altitudes between 300 kilometres (over the lunar south pole) and 3000 kilometres (over the lunar north pole) and will begin its scientific observations.

The main purpose of the mission is to demonstrate new spacecraft technologies. According to Newscientist.com, one goal is to survey the Peak of Eternal Light, a mountaintop at the lunar south pole that is permanently bathed in sunlight.

This keeps the temperature stable at a tolerable -20ºC, making it a favoured site for a manned lunar base.

The spacecraft reached the moon two months earlier than was expected - SMART-1 has made 332 orbits around Earth and operated for a total of about 3700 hours.

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