Learn about the Smart One mission and the importance of the information derived from the moon's surface.
Read the full transcript »
The Smart One Mission on the Moon When the first European Mission to the moon Smart 1 lifted off, a key part of the payload was a British instrument built to reveal the mysteries of the earth’s lunar companion. At the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Dipcot near Oxford the British Scientist involved in the European Space Agency mission explained why after so many lunar missions, the moon remains a relatively unknown and unexplored world. It represents an unspoiled record of the chemical make up of it on earth and the risk of the solar system. It was a view of the past because in parts of its crust or the surface, it holds a record of what was going on in the early solar system about 4 Billion years ago. That recorder has been wiped out on earth so looking at the moon is like looking into the earth’s past. In the heart of a Smart 1 probe is a design in engineering feat by British Scientist who have built the smallest and lightest instrument of its kind. The British made x-rays spectrometer, a kind of chemical identifier is four times lighter than similar instruments built for space exploration taking less fuel to blast it into space and saving millions of dollars. The spectrometer or DCIXS picks up solar x-rays reflected from the lunar surface as different chemical elements and compounds reflect or fluoresce individual x-ray signals, the probe can read and record the chemical make up of the moon. It works because when the sun shines on the moon the elements in the moon fluoresce. This fluorescence is then radiated back to the space craft and DCISX picks it up. It can measure the different x-rays which are coming back. Armed with a complete x-ray chemical map of the moon, British Scientists hope to compare lunar chemistry with earth rocks to solve a mystery that’s baffled astronomers. Despite manned missions and detailed observations, no one knows exactly where our lunar companion came from. The origin of the moon is actually still quite a mystery. There are some good ideas of how it formed, the leading theory at the moment is that a large body about half the size of the planet Mars smashed into Earth as it was forming, threw off lots of material, and then formed the moon. But there are still problems with that theory. One of the thing scientists hoped to achieve with the Smart 1 mission is to try and answer that question and fill in the gaps of our knowledge. Using a pioneering solar panel propulsion system, the Smart 1 probe will take six months to map the entire lunar surface.