Europe's first mission to the moon has blasted off aboard a European Ariane rocket, space officials said.Minor nitpick : last time I looked, Russia was part of Europe. Their first probe was sent over 44 years ago.
The Ariane-5 rocket carrying the SMART-1 Moon exploration probe and two commercial satellites blasted off at 8.14pm today (0914 Sunday AEST) from the European Space Agency (ESA) launch centre at Kourou in French Guiana on the northeast coast of South America.For more details, see a previous post.
Forty-one minutes after launch, the rocket released SMART-1 into space to begin a 15-month journey to reach lunar orbit. The 370kg probe will scan the Moon for up to 30 months.
SMART-1 would cover a distance of 100 million kilometres to reach the Moon with only 60 litres of fuel, Giuseppe RACCA, ESA Project Manager said before the launch.Even better fuel consumption than my Daihatsu Charade, which gets 17 km per litre. And that's the thing about Ion Drives – they don't accelerate very quickly – it will take 100 days to get to lunar Orbit compared with the Apollo's 3 – but their fuel efficiency is truly remarkable. Closer to the Sun than the Asteroid belt, Solar-powered Ion propulsion is the way to go. Further than that, you'll need a nuclear heat source, but still an Ion drive.
And in other news, Nigeria's first Satellite has been launched successfully by the team at Plesetsk. Congrats to all concerned.