Monday, September 04, 2006

Smart-1 A Smashing Success

UPDATED 9/22/06
Broken photo link removed 11/27/07

The European moon probe "Smart-1" has yielded much more information than expected.

It has proven the abilities of the Ion Drive propulsion system which provides a gentle but constant acceleration which over time can reach high enough velocities to explore the outer planets.

The advantage of such a system is the fuel weight to payload weight ratio. The early moon missions required huge rockets to boost the space ship to a speed where it would "coast" to the moon. Much of this size was required just to lift their own fuel load.

With this system smaller launch vehicles are required to place the space ship in orbit from where the Ion Drive takes over.

Also the mission yielded lots of new information regarding the composition of the rocks which will be helpful in determining the orgin of the moon.
Currently some theorize it was knocked off of the earth by a collision of another body.

UPDATE 9/22/06: Images from the spacecraft are available for view at the European Space Agency website.

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