Impact Begins Implementaion Phase
mission passed its May 23 Confirmation Review at NASA Headquarters
and has been given approval to proceed to the implementation
phase. After successful completion of both the Preliminary
Design Review and an independent Confirmation Assessment,
the first mission to impact a comet will now complete the
design of its two-part spacecraft.
Deep Impact mission will send a probe to collide with a comet
in an attempt to peer beneath its surface. Scheduled for launch
in January 2004, the unique spacecraft is expected to arrive
at comet Tempel 1 in July 2005. Researchers hope the impact
will allow them to measure freshly exposed material and study
samples hidden deep below the surface of the comet, which
could yield dramatic scientific breakthroughs.
Artist's Rendering of the Comet, Impactor,
and Flyby Spacecraft
770 pound impactor, equipped with a camera, will separate
from the flyby spacecraft and slam into the comet at an approximate
speed of 22,300 miles per hour, blasting material from the
comet into space with the force of its impact. A camera and
infrared spectrometer on the flyby spacecraft, along with
ground-based observatories, will study the resulting icy debris
and exposed pristine interior material.
are eager to learn whether comets exhaust their supply of
gas and ice to space or seal it into their interiors. They
would also like to learn how a comet's interior is different
from its surface. The controlled cratering experiment of this
mission could provide those answers.
principal investigator, Dr. Michael A'Hearn, University of
Maryland, College Park, is leading a team consisting of NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, and Ball Aerospace
Technology Corp., Boulder, CO, which will build the spacecraft.
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