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The University of Southampton

Southampton graduate is over the moon with lunar launch

Published: 3 October 2003

A University of Southampton graduate has seen years of hard work blasted into space on an unmanned probe. Geoff McBride has been celebrating the successful recent launch of a mission to the moon, after playing a significant part in the research, development and manufacture of a new miniaturised instrument carried on board the probe.

SMART-1 (Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology) is Europe's first attempt at a solo Moon mission. The space probe, which is trying out new technology, was successfully launched on 28 September from French Guiana.

Geoff McBride studied Physics with Space Science at the University of Southampton and now works at the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. Since 1999 he has been working on the D-CIXS project to develop a compact X-ray spectrometer or camera. D-CIXS is a miniature instrument which uses radical new technology, representing a new generation of X-ray instruments for planetary observation. The main science goal of the instrument is to produce the first global map of the Moon in X-rays.

Geoff's mission was to develop a component to define the spectrometer's field of view: "I had to come up with some way of making sure the camera is only looking exactly where we want it to-since we can't be there to look through it and aim it ourselves! So we came up with lots of little tubes called "collimators" which act like blinkers on a horse, making sure the spectrometer points to exactly the right spot on the Moon.

"The launch and the project have been the highlight of my career so far; to say I'm chuffed to bits is an understatement!"

In combination with data being obtained by other instruments on SMART-1 and the data already provided by other missions, the information gathered by D-CIXS will allow for a more detailed look at some of the fundamental questions that remain regarding the origin and evolution of the Moon.

Notes for editors

  1. A photo of Geoff is available from Meline Burke in Press and Public Relations, email
  2. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £215 million.
  3. The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils owns and operates the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, and two other research sites in the UK. These sites enable research at the leading edge of technology. Its Space Science and Technology Department is one of the largest in Europe, with world-leading experts in many fields.
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