Feeds

SMART-1 makes lunar orbit

Europe has reached the moon

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The SMART-1 probe has entered its lunar orbit, and the history books as the first European mission to have done so.

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

The craft arrived at its destination thirteen months after launching from Earth. Although the moon is only 380,000km away in a straight line, SMART-1 orbited the Earth more than 300 times, and travelled 84m km. In fact, its journey comparable in length to an interplanetary cruise: at its closest, Venus is just 40m km away from us, and Mars is 35m km.

SMART-1 slotted into orbit at an altitude of 5000km, and will settle into its final orbit over the next few months. Its ion-propulsion engine will fire continuously for the next four days to help it stabilise. By January, it should be in an elliptical orbit, passing the moon at a distance of 300km over the South pole, and 3000km over the North pole.

On its journey it carried deep-space communication tests including a study of feasibility of pointing a laser beam from Earth at a moving, distant, spacecraft. It is now the first electrically powered craft to complete gravity assist manoeuvres, the ESA says.

SMART-1 also tried out new techniques for allowing a spacecraft autonomous control of its flight. The OBAN experiment tested how well navigation software on ground computers could calculate the position and velocity of the spacecraft using images of celestial objects taken by the AMIE camera on SMART-1 as references.

Once its orbit is finalised, SMART-1 will scan the lunar surface for resources, particularly water, for future, manned, missions. Astronomers hope the data it sends back to Earth will shed light on the formation of Earth's only satellite. ®

Bootnote:

Some readers were upset by our whimsical suggestion that a mini could drive to the moon in less time, given a suitable motorway. For you, then, we offer the following statistical meanderings:

SMART-1 clocked up 332 orbits around Earth, so that the distance it travelled was rather further than the 380,000 linear km to the moon. It fired its engine 289 times during the cruise phase, operating for a total of about 3700 hours, and it actually only used 59 kilograms of its xenon propellant.

Related stories

Mars Express sends postcard from Phobos
ESA's lunar probe closes on target
Boeing and Northrop Grumman forge space alliance

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?