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Mon, Sep 29, 2003

To The Moon, Ariane!

First Moon Shot in Many Moons is On the Way

It's the first time anyone but Americans or Soviets have tried to reach the Moon, and, not surprisingly, it's a European effort.

Saturday morning, the Kourou launch station in French Guiana saw an Ariane-5 make a spectacular launch, starting a long trip that will set a couple satellites into Earth orbit, and one 815-pound probe, that's going to check out the moon, starting in late December of next year.

The INSAT 3-E, India's satellite, and France's Eutelsat are the Earth-orbiting projects. They'll be on-station 'way sooner.

The moon probe, called SMART-1, will meander quite a bit in that time, covering 62 million miles, to reach the moon, which is a quarter-million miles away. The reason it's taking so long is to save fuel -- the trip will be made with about 16 gallons of the precious stuff. [In a straight line, with planetary alignments just so, 62 million miles of travel could get you to Mars --ed.]

Electric power to the moon, Mars, and beyond?

SMART-1 will be propelled mostly by electricity, powered by solar panels, according to Giuseppe RACCA, the ESA Project Manager. David Southwood, ESA's Director of Scientific Programs, told a news conference in Kourou, "With SMART-1 we can test propulsion in deep-space orbit. The next step, I hope, will be a Mars mission."

Who's next to Space? Red China; they have a military project that demands space dominance; a manned program is an integral part of that scheme.



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