SMART-1 to impact Moon in August…?

By Phil Plait | March 2, 2006 11:43 pm

This is interesting: according to this article on, SMART-1, a probe orbiting the Moon, will impact the lunar surface in August. The impact speed is high enough to create a fair-sized explosion, throwing a lot of dust and rocks from the Moon’s surface. This can be observed from Earth, and we can learn more about the composition of that part of the Moon.

This was done before, with Lunar Prospector. They were hoping to hit ice, which would be detectable in the flash. Unfortunately, none was seen. Maybe the Europeans will fare better with SMART-1. I hope so. It’s like science for free! Well, not really free– but it’s extra science; literally, more bang for your buck.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Science

Comments (10)

  1. “ESA has also distributed a circular letter to scientists to gauge their interest in these observations.”

    Who wouldn’t be interested? Go for the gravy. :)

  2. SMART-1 is a technological and scientifc success, but a PR failure. News and image releases are infrequent, and few know that there is probe currently in orbit around the Moon. I have seen more lunar images from Soviet probes than SMART-1…

    Given that most of the money for such missions comes from taxpayers, these days good PR are as important as cool technologies. Mission planning — and funding — should take this into account.

    Paolo (disappointed European taxpayer)

  3. Would be cool if we could pick it up in amatuar ‘scopes… ūüėÄ

  4. nancy

    hi, off topic, but: I did my usual Friday morning click over to James Randi’s site for the weekly commentary, and was pleased to see it was written by you! A nice introduction from Hal Bidlack: “He blogs wonderfully, with a rich understanding of human nature, and how regular folks like us can connect with astronomy.” So true!
    thank you

  5. geoge

    The first lunar impact was in Sept. of 1959 – the Russian Luna 2; Luna 1 missed the moon.

  6. I’m a European and haven’t heard of SMART-1 before, either. :-S

    No offense, but is it possible to find water in the Sahara, dropping a Smart from high-altitude? Just wondering.
    Would help the Saharan people though. :-)

  7. Gary Ansorge


    The Sahara has, like many deserts, subteranean water. So yes, it would probably show up from a large impact, however, a Smart sized device would be slowed too much by earths atmosphere to penetrate deeply. Would require something a bit bigger, like the space station,,,

    Gary 7

  8. Steve Cooperman

    Off topic, but has anyone seen the evidence for a new, growing Red Spot on Jupiter?

    I wasn’t sure how to start a new thread here or whether only Phil could.

    — Steve >>>>

  9. Gary Ansorge

    Steve: Veeeery interesting.

    BA: Why do we have so little analyses of the Red Spot? Shouldn’t it’s composition be analyzable with spectral analyses?

    Just wondering,,,

    Gary 7

  10. Wayne Harris-Wyrick

    I can’t any any specifics on date and time. Has that beem released yet?



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