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The CAPSTONE satellite was launched six days ago from Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand by Rocket Lab on one of its small Electron rockets. It will take another four months for the satellite to reach the moon as it travels using a minimum of energy.
Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck told that his excitement was hard to put into words. Beck said the mission's relatively low cost marked the beginning of a new era in space exploration. NASA estimated it at $32.7 million.
“For some tens of millions of dollars, there is now a rocket and a spacecraft that can take you to the moon, to asteroids, to Venus, to Mars. It’s an insane capability that’s never existed before.”
If the mission is successful, the CAPSTONE satellite is scheduled to transmit vital information within months, as it will be the first to enter a new orbit around the moon, called an almost rectilinear halo orbit: an elongated, egg-shaped shape with one end of the orbit close to the moon and the other far from it. According to Beck, the advantage of the new orbit is reduced fuel consumption and the ability of the spacecraft to remain in constant contact with Earth.
In addition, the orbit is important because NASA plans to place the Gateway space station in that orbit, from which astronauts will be able to descend to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program.
Rocket Lab of California and Advanced Space of Colorado, which owns and operates the CAPSTONE satellite, participated in this mission with NASA.
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