SMART-1 spacecraft to crash into Moon


  • Sarah Zielinski


The European Space Agency's (ESA) spacecraft SMART-1 (Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology) concludes its nearly three-year mission by crashing into the lunar Lake of Excellence on 2 or 3 September.

The craft has used an innovative electric propulsion engine—which works by expelling xenon gas ions to produce thrust and is powered by solar panels—to orbit first the Earth and then the Moon.With a miniature camera and X-ray and infrared spectrometers, SMART-1 has been mapping the moon since March 2005. This is the first spacecraft to detect calcium and magnesium from orbit, which are potential clues to the origin of the Moon.