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Europe's first lunar adventure.
The European Space Agency's Science Programme encompasses, in addition to the ambitious 'Cornerstone' and medium-sized missions, recently dubbed 'flexi-missions', small relatively low-cost missions. These have been given the generic name SMART - 'Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology'. Their purpose is to test new technologies that will eventually be used on bigger projects.
SMART-1 is the first in this programme. Its primary objective is to flight test Solar Electric Primary Propulsion as the key technology for future Cornerstones in a mission representative of a deep-space one. ESA's BepiColombo mission to explore the planet Mercury could be the first to benefit from SMART-1's demonstration of electric propulsion. Another objective is to test new technologies for spacecraft and instruments.
The planetary objective selected for the SMART-1 mission is to orbit the Moon for a nominal period of six months. It is the first time that Europe has sent a spacecraft to the Moon. In addition to the use of solar electric primary propulsion to reach Earth's natural satellite, the spacecraft will carry out a complete programme of scientific observations in lunar orbit.
SMART-1 was launched succesfully as an Ariane-5 auxiliary payload on 27 September 2003 and entered lunar orbit on 15 November 2004.