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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Making An Impact

After 16 months of successful data collection, the European Space Agency (ESA) lunar spacecraft SMART-1 is going out with a bang. Mission controllers at ESA have programmed it to crash into the Moon. Even its death is going to be put to good use - scientists will monitor the impact event to learn more about the lunar soil.

Actually the word "crash" doesn't accurately describe the impact. It's more like a bouncy skippy stop.

The spacecraft will descend at such a shallow angle (about 1 degree) that it might hit a mountain before reaching the planned impact site.

If it does reach the planned site, it will skim into the ground and possibly bounce a few times before coming to a stop.

Since it is expected that SMART-1 will only make a 10-metre wide crater, I suspect that only observatories with the biggest ass telescopes will be able to see the impact. Still, for those of you with fair sized scopes (say 12-inch) it's worth a try.

As for those of us who live in Singapore the impact event is scheduled to occur at 1:42 pm (5.42am GMT) in the afternoon, so there's no way we'll see anything.

Except maybe through the evening news.