03 September 2006

Smart-1 2003-2006

Smart-1 decides to end it allSmart-1, the European Space Agency's lunar probe, ended its life this morning by crashing into the Lake of Excellence on the Moon, having rejected the Bay of Averageness and Pond of Pillinger as its last resting place. Friends at ESA claim the probe had always wanted to die in this fashion, smashed into a million pieces on the barren surface of another world, which was lucky given so many of ESA's projects end that way.

The washing-machine shaped probe was launched on September 27th, 2003 and took nearly three years to reach the Moon, leading many to speculate it was designed by the combined efforts of members of The Apprentice and Dragon's Den and launched by Richard Branson.

Propelled by a solar-powered ion thruster instead of a chemical combustion engine, Smart-1 made its way to the moon after a complex series of spiral orbits, enabling the tiny but constant thrust from its engine to accelerate it to enormous speed and also allowing it to avoid the London Congestion Charge. Once in orbit round the Moon the probe took thousands of photographs, mapping the Lunar surface and conducting an exhaustive survery of its mineral composition for the benefit of science, mankind and Exxon, BP and Shell.

As well as studying the Moon, Smart-1 also spent the last 16 months of its short life testing innovative technologies of microscopic size, giving hope that it will one day be possible to crash Prince, Paul Daniels or Tom Cruise on the Moon.

The probe smashed into the surface of the Moon at 05:42 GMT, September 3rd, at 5,000 mph, throwing up a dust cloud visible from the Earth and scattering its broken remains over a 10 m crater which has already been named the Lake of Discarded Rubbish, and caused Lunar officials to issue ESA with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order for fly-tipping.

Smart-1 is survived by Nasa's Orion shuttle project, which hopes to put a man on the Moon by 2020 thus fulfilling President George W Bush's $230bn pledge to construct a base on the Moon - a vital part of his administration's War on Cheese.