From: Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp.
Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2004
The spacecraft pair that will give scientists their first up-close look at a comet entered the final testing phase before their launch scheduled for December 2004. The Flyby and Impactor spacecrafts for the Deep Impact mission will be joined in their final flight configuration to undergo thermal vacuum, vibration and acoustic testing. Despite this extensive on-earth testing, the Impactor spacecraft was designed to be vaporized upon impact with its target, the comet, Tempel 1. Both comet and spacecraft will be traveling at closing speeds of approximately 23,000 miles per hour upon impact.
During the Deep Impact mission, the Flyby spacecraft will release a smaller Impactor spacecraft that will collide with Tempel 1. Deep Impact's telescopes aboard the Flyby spacecraft will witness the impact and return data to Earth regarding the composition of the comet based on the ejecta created from the collision. The collision with the Impactor spacecraft will form a crater in the comet, about the size of a football stadium, and as deep as 14-stories. The collision is expected to occur on July 4, 2005.
The instruments onboard the Flyby spacecraft will return data on the pristine material in the crater and the material ejected by the impact. The High Resolution Imager aboard the Flyby spacecraft will be one of the largest interplanetary telescopes ever flown in order to record the details of the collision. The Impactor spacecraft will also provide close-encounter photos of the comet just prior to impact, giving scientists the most complete view of a comet to date.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in association with the University of Maryland and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), is developing and integrating the Flyby Spacecraft, the Impactor Spacecraft, and science instruments, including two telescopes, two cameras and a spectrometer for analyzing the interior of the comet. Deep Impact is the eighth mission in NASA's Discovery Program, and the first mission to ever attempt impact with a comet nucleus in an effort to probe beneath its surface. For more information about Deep Impact, please visit:
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