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Cosmic Space

Robotic probe begins monthslong voyage to the moon

A robotic probe that’s meant to blaze a trail for astronauts has begun a slow and steady trek to the moon, thanks to a launch from New Zealand on a commercial rocket.

NASA’s Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, also known as Capstone, lifted off from Rocket Lab’s launch pad on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula atop an Electron rocket at 2:55 a.m. PT (9:55 p.m. local time) today.

Because Rocket Lab’s Electron has far less oomph than, say, a Saturn V or Space Launch System rocket, the microwave oven-sized spacecraft will be sent along a leisurely, looping route that takes advantage of the gravitational pulls of the moon, the sun and Earth.