The SMART-1 lunar probe crash-landed on the moon last Sunday, just as planned. SMART-1 was launched on September 3rd, 2003 and is the first European spacecraft to reach the moon. It has orbited the moon more than 2,000 times since late last year, collecting data about the lunar surface.
The SMART-1 mission was primarily a flight test for new technology. The spacecraft was propelled by an ion engine powered by gallium-arsenide solar panels. This is the first time such an engine has been used for space travel. New deep space communication techniques were also tested during the mission.
These images of the Earth’s surface were captured by the on-board AMIE camera, four days before impact. The images are centered on Brazil; the moon can be seen passing between the camera and Earth.
SMART-1 reached the moon in November 2004, and has been collecting data about the lunar surface. In the last days before impact, the probe orbited the moon at a very low altitude, capturing these images of the lunar surface:
SMART-1 landed in the Lake of Excellence at a speed of about 7,200 km per hour, producing an impact crater estimated to be 5-10 metres wide. It is hoped that the chemical composition of the dust produced by the impact can be analyzed, to provide more data about the moon’s mineralogy.