November 17, 2004 Darmstadt, Germany - SMART-1 is the first space probe the European Space Agency (ESA) has ever launched to the moon. SMART stands for "Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology." This is also the first time that ESA has tried an "electric primary propulsion in space," which is an ion engine that uses a Hall-effect thruster fueled by xenon gas and powered by solar energy. SMART-1 was launched in September 2003 with the plan to make 332 orbits around the Earth, each one going further and further until its experimental ion drive was fired at 05:24 UT, November 15, 2004, to bring the spacecraft into lunar orbit. The engine will be fired repeatedly over the next two months to lower the spacecraft into an operational orbit of 3000 x 300 kilometers by January 13, 2005.
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