Deep Space 1 Mission Log Mission Update: 23 Sep 2001

Status Report From: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2001

Thank you for visiting the Deep Space 1 mission status information site, the most popular site in the Milky Way galaxy for information on this daring mission of exploration. This message was logged at 6:30 pm on Sunday, September 23.

Deep Space 1 plunged into the heart of comet Borrelly and has lived to tell every detail of it! The amazing little spacecraft was fantastically successful in its encounter with the mysterious comet on September 22. Many recent mission logs have described why this probably would not work, but it did work, and it worked far far better than expected. (For more technical details on the challenges of this encounter, visit In fact, everything went so well on encounter day that my biggest concern was the seismic risk to Southern California when thunderous applause erupted in mission control upon the return of the images! When we saw them, the room was just filled with almost unbridled elation. We had low expectations, so the enormity of the success was that much more wonderful. The tremendous excitement stems from being the very first humans ever to glimpse the secrets that this comet has held since the birth of the solar system. In addition, after years of nursing this aged and wounded bird along -- a spacecraft not designed to explore comets, a probe that exceeded its objectives more than 2 years ago -- after struggling to keep it going through long nights and stressful days, to see it perform its remarkably complex and risky assignment so well was nothing short of incredible.

I honestly did not think it was up to the task. In fact, even though we had strong indications during the encounter that it was collecting the data we wanted, I tried to keep everyone from getting too excited. I felt we had to accomplish two key tasks: 1) get the science data from the spacecraft to Earth, and 2) persuade ourselves we weren't dreaming. We've now done both!

The images and other data we collected from comet Borrelly are going to make great contributions to scientists' efforts to learn more about these intriguing members of the solar system family. We're going to gain a great deal of completely new and absolutely fascinating insights into comets and perhaps into the origin and evolution of Earth.

This log is short because your correspondent is thoroughly exhausted. The last few logs describe what we hoped to accomplish, and one of the great surprises of the day is that we achieved everything we set out to. JPL will be releasing pictures and other information through its Media Relations Office in the coming days. There is a small chance there will be a new log later this week. More likely however, the next one will be early in November. Your loyal correspondent is scheduled to attend an international conference on space exploration in just a few days. Following that will be some time to return to Earth after this cosmic high, and then the logs will resume with a more thorough description of this truly historic event. You will read about the exciting science, the challenging engineering, and the spectacular human drama that collectively add up to a truly astonishing success story. And you will read about the end of the Deep Space 1 Extended Mission and its brief follow-on, which I like to call the Deep Space 1 Hyperextended Mission. So there's more to come in the continuing exciting adventures of Deep Space 1, one of humankind's most wonderful ambassadors to the cosmos.

Deep Space 1 is now 1.6 million kilometers, or 1 million miles, past comet Borrelly. (BTW, it's really neat to see the countdown clock in mission control showing the time to encounter now as "T +" a time rather than "T -" a time!)

Deep Space 1 is nearly 1.5 times as far from Earth as the Sun is and 575 times as far as the moon. At this distance of 220 million kilometers, or 137 million miles, radio signals, traveling at the universal limit of the speed of light, take 24 and a half minutes to make the round trip.

Thanks again for visiting!

P.S. We did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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