Europe's first spacecraft to the moon successfully crashed into a volcanic plain on Sunday:
Europe's first spacecraft to the moon smashed into a volcanic plain as planned Sunday, signaling in a bright flash the end of a successful mission to test a new propulsion system and navigation technology for flights to other planets.
Staff at the European Space Agency's control center clapped when the SMART-1 orbiter hit a lunar hillside at 4,475 mph, coming down in the target zone a day after a hurried course correction.
The deliberate crash capped a three-year mission that tested new technologies such as a low-thrust ion engine that ESA hopes will inexpensively take other probes to Mercury and other planets. It also tested new ways of automating a spacecraft's guidance.