9 March 2007
SMART-1’s bridge to the future exploration of the Moon
ESA’s SMART-1 moon mission has become a bridge to the future of lunar
science and exploration.
“SMART-1 data are helping to choose future landing sites for robotic and
possible manned missions, and its instruments are upgraded and being flown
again on the next generation of lunar satellites,” says Bernard Foing, ESA
SMART-1 Project scientist. “Even its spectacular impact campaign is helping
NASA to plan their own moon crash.”
SMART-1’s mission lasted from launch on 27 September 2003, to its controlled
impact on the Moon on 3 September 2006. During that time, the missions
innovative approach to technology and science created new solutions to old
problems that are now being carried forward to the next generation of lunar
missions, in line with the recommendations of the International Lunar
Exploration Working Group (ILEWG).
The miniature camera, AMIE, weighed just 2 kilograms yet the images it
returned are being used to choose possible landing sites for future
missions. The choice of landing sites depends upon criteria such as the
scientific importance of the area, the ease of landing and operation and, if
it is to become a human base, the availability of lunar resources. SMART-1
has imaged Apollo and Luna landing sites, and potential possible landing
sites for humans at the lunar poles.
To follow up the technological breakthroughs of SMART-1, ESA is providing
three instruments for the Indian Moon mission Chandrayaan-1. Two are direct
descendents from SMART-1: the infrared spectrometer, SIR2, and the X-ray
spectrometer, C1XS. The third (SARA) is a precursor to an instrument that
will fly on ESA’s Bepi-Colombo mission to Mercury.
ESA and European scientists are also collaborating with the Japanese, who
are currently preparing the large lunar spacecraft, Selene, which will
launch this year carrying two subsatellites and 300 kilograms of
During SMART-1’s mission, ESA provided the Chinese with details of the
spacecraft’s position and transmission frequencies, so that the Chinese
could test their tracking stations and ground operations by following it.
This was part of their preparation for Chang’E 1, an orbiter due to be
launched in October 2007.
SMART-1 experts are collaborating with NASA to prepare for Lunar
Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) that will provide new imaging, radar and other
key measurements needed for future exploration of the Moon. LRO is due to be
launched at the end of 2008. ESA is sharing the experience of SMART-1’s
impact campaign to help prepare the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing
Satellite (LCROSS), which will be launched with LRO. The LCROSS shepherd
spacecraft will watch the spent upper-stage of its rocket crash into a dark
lunar crater, hopefully releasing water vapour and thus proving that ice
exists on the lunar surface.
“Having flown SMART-1, we have now established collaborations with other
countries that will help to take us into the future of lunar exploration,”
Bernard Foing explained SMART-1’s legacy to the Symposium: “Why the Moon?”
at the International Space University at Strasbourg, France, on 22 February
For more information:
Bernard Foing, ESA SMART-1 Project Scientist
Bernard.Foing @ esa.int
[NOTE: Images and weblinks supporting this release are available at