SMART-1

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SMART-1

A lunar probe launched on top of an Ariane-5 rocket by the European Space Agency (ESA) Sept. 2003 from Kourou, French Guiana. It was ESA's first Moon probe and the first craft to be sent into space as part of ESA's SMART program – SMART is short for Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology. SMART-1 was placed in a transfer orbit from the Earth to the Moon before proceeding to an elliptical lunar orbit taking it over the Moon's poles. Driven by a very slow but inexpensive solar-powered electric ion propulsion drive, it took 14 months to reach lunar orbit. In addition to testing the ion drive, the 367-kg SMART-1 was due to attempt to set up a laser-beam communications link with the Earth. It also carried miniature instruments on board to conduct detailed mapping of the whole lunar surface, including the far side. Its tiny infrared detector was to be used in the search for water in deep craters at the lunar poles, while its spectrometer was to map the chemical makeup of the lunar surface and gather chemical data in order to learn more about the Moon's origins. SMART-1's mission was scheduled to last until late 2005 or 2006.