On This Day in Space! Sept. 3, 2006: SMART-1 Spacecraft Crashes Into the Moon | Innovation

Welcome to “On This … in !” where we peer back in our archives to find historic moments in spaceflight and astronomy. So enjoy a blast from the past with .com's Hanneke Weitering to look back at what happened on this day in space!

On . 3, 2006, a European satellite named SMART-1 crashed into the moon! This wasn't as disastrous as it sounds, because the spacecraft did it on purpose. 

SMART-1 launched in 2003 and was the first European spacecraft to go to the moon. It was also the first mission of a program called Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology, which was a series of low-cost spacecraft that the European Space Agency launched to test new spaceflight technologies. SMART-1's primary objective was to test something called Solar Electric Primary Propulsion, or a solar-powered electric engine.

While it orbited the moon for almost two years, it looked for water ice and other chemicals on the lunar surface. When it slammed into the moon, that was also done for science. Astronomers back on Earth watched the impact with their telescopes, hoping that it would give them some insight into the mechanics of meteor impacts.

Catch up on our entire “On This Day In Space” series on YouTube with this playlist.

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. 

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