|Monday / 17 July 2006|
SMART-1 Providing View of Moon in Unprecedented Detail. ESA's Smart-1 has been studying the Moon for 15 months and is returning up to 1,000 images per week, according to RedOrbit.com. They show the Moon's surface in unprecedented detail because mission planners make sure there is enough sunlight to illuminate a particular lunar feature before the spacecraft's camera points to it. That's a challenging task as Smart-1's orbit carries it around the Moon from mid-day to midnight in just five hours. In addition, Smart-1 Project Scientist Bernard Foing says, "To decipher the formation and evolution of the Moon, and the processes that shape its landscapes, we needed both global coverage and dedicated observations of specific targets." The mission is using four innovative observing modes: nadir, targeted, Moon-spot pointing, and push-broom observations. Miguel Almeida, Science Operations Engineer at ESTEC, says, "The push-broom observations were entirely successful." It's a technique that allows color images of the Moon to be made with the AMIE camera. Scientists can create contextual maps of surface minerals and search for glassy areas depicting meteorite strikes that have melted small areas. Smart-1 is in the final phase of its mission, which entails a series of increasingly low altitude orbits that will allow scientists to study the south pole to see if there are any possible landing sites for future missions. On 3 September, the probe will intersect the Moon, leaving behind just a small crater of a few meters in size. Brief interruptions for two trim maneuvers to adjust the impact time will take place at the end of July and the beginning of September.