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SMART-1's View of the Middle East.

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SMART-1's View of the Middle East.
SMART-1's View of the Middle East.

Jul 26, 2004 The European Space Agency's SMART-1 spacecraft took this snapshot of the Middle East and Africa from its vantage point of 100,000 km (63,000 miles) from Earth. SMART-1 is continuing its long journey to the Moon by using its efficient ion engine to slowly raise its altitude. Operation of the engine has been so efficient, in fact, that the spacecraft will probably be able to save 25% of its fuel by the time it reaches the Moon. This will allow it to get much closer to the Moon than originally planned, and take much higher resolution images of its surface.

Now more than 100 000 kilometres away from Earth, ESA's Moon-bound spacecraft SMART-1 looked back at Earth and returned this planetary perspective of the Middle East and Mediterranean Sea.

'Smart' usage of the solar-electric propulsion system (the ion engine) has saved a lot of fuel and the spacecraft will get to the Moon earlier than expected.

Almost 20 kilograms of the xenon fuel could be saved out of the original 84 kilograms, which could then be used to get closer to the Moon than planned, to within distances of between 300 and 3000 kilometres. This will give a coverage of the lunar surface at higher resolution and sensitivity.

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