Feeds

SMART-1 probe heading for crash landing

ESA lays out path to destruction

High performance access to file storage

The European Space Agency (ESA) is plotting the demise of the SMART-1 lunar probe, the first ever European mission to the moon. ESA says the probe, which has been orbiting our largest natural satellite for almost 16 months, will be crashed into the surface on 3 September.

The craft, launched in September 2003, was designed to test a variety of new technologies, including an ion-propulsion engine which could one day be used for interplanetary travel. Its six month mission began when it arrived in its lunar orbit in November 2004. The mission was later extended by a year.

Mission managers used the little craft to try out communications techniques that could be used on deep space missions, as well as techniques for autonomous navigation. The craft also carried pint-sized scientific instruments for, presumably, pint-sized experimenting in lunar orbit.

Left to itself, of course, SMART-1 would crash into the lunar surface on 17 August. However, the landing site would be on the far side, and we wouldn't get to see anything.

So, ESA is giving it a couple of little nudges, enough to put it onto a new orbit that will bring it into the surface of the moon some time between 05:41 and 00:37, universal time on 3 September, just over a fortnight after it would have crashed on its own.

ESA would be more specific about the landing time, it says, but it doesn't know enough about the surface of the moon in that region.

Scientists do know that the so-called "Lake of Excellence", located at mid-southern latitudes, is a volcanic plain, surrounded by highlands. The soil in the area is also known to contain a variety of minerals.

As the craft comes in for its landing, Earth-based observers will get a good view of the local topography.

The Lake of Excellence will be on the moon's dark side when the probe hits, but will be gently lit by scattered Earthlight. This, ESA says, makes for perfect observation conditions. A bright surface would have totally obscured the landing, and a new moon is visible for such a short time every evening, that it would have been very difficult to time the landing right.

Researchers hope when it hits, SMART-1's impact will throw up a plume of dust that will be visible from Earth, and will reveal more about the composition of the ground. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.