A small NASA spacecraft is about to land on the Moon after lasting 4.5 months. The CAPSTONE cubesat satellite, which is about the size of a microwave oven, is set to enter lunar orbit on Sunday (November 13) at 6:48 p.m. EST (2348 GMT).
According to Space, NASA officials wrote in an update: “The CAPSTONE team expects to take at least five days to analyze the data, perform two clean-up maneuvers, and confirm successful insertion into the near-straight-line corona orbit.”
CAPSTONE, short for Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experience, blasted off atop the Rocket Lab Electron booster on June 28, as it embarked on a gravitational line route to the moon.
This path is very fuel efficient but also twisty, which explains why it took the 55 lb (25 kg) probe so long to reach its destination.
CAPSTONE’s epic journey wasn’t quite as smooth, as the small probe, for example, went dark on July 4, shortly after it separated from the Foton spacecraft’s Rocket Lab bus.
The CAPSTONE team led by Colorado-based Advanced Space Corporation, which owns and operates the probe for NASA, quickly diagnosed the problem as an incorrectly coordinated order and re-established communications the next day.
On September 8, CAPSTONE experienced a glitch that landed the spacecraft and put it in a safe, protective mode. This problem was even more annoying, but the mission team fixed it, and CAPSTONE is now on its way to the moon.
The small probe will also conduct some communication and navigation tests during its time in lunar orbit, which is expected to last at least six months.
Some of these experiments will be joint efforts with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Moon since 2009.
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