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Earth and Moon Missions

21st Century Navigation


It is still easiest to study our planet and its closest neighbor than sending a probe elsewhere. This page talks about the important missions that study Earth and the moon that have occurred so far this century ... which so far is only one.

SMART-1: Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology-1

SMART - 1SMART-1, Europe's first science spacecraft sent to orbit Earth's moon, was launched at 23:14 GMT on September 27, 2003, aboard Ariane Flight 162, launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. It achieved its initial Earth orbit within the next hour. The 368 kg (811 lb) craft entered orbit of the moon on November 15, 2004. Its mission has been extended once so far to end in August 2006.

As the first mission in the new series of Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology, SMART-1 is mainly designed to demonstrate innovative and key technologies for future deep space science missions. However, it is also a remote sensing probe with the goal of making the first comprehensive inventory of key chemical elements in the lunar surface. It will also try to gather evidence to support or refute the theory that the moon was formed in a violent collision of a small, Mars-sized planet with Earth early in our history.

In addition to valuable lunar science, SMART-1's payload will be involved in the mission's technology demonstrations to prepare for future-generation deep space missions. For instance, the AMIE camera will be used to validate the On-Board Autonomous Navigation (OBAN) algorithm, which correlates data from sensors and star trackers to provide navigational data. It will also participate in a laser communication link experiment with ESA's optical ground station at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife, Canary Islands, trying to detect an incoming laser beam from the ground.

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