SETI bioastro: FW: NASA Gives Go-Ahead to Build 'Deep Impact' Spacecraft

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From: Larry Klaes (
Date: Fri May 25 2001 - 06:25:26 PDT

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Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2001 10:30 PM
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Subject: NASA Gives Go-Ahead to Build 'Deep Impact' Spacecraft

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Contact: Martha J. Heil (818) 354-0850



     The Deep Impact mission, the first mission to ever
attempt to impact a comet nucleus in order to answer basic
questions about the nature of comets, has successfully
completed its preliminary design phase and has been approved
by NASA to begin full-scale development for a launch in
January 2004.

     The Deep Impact team of scientists, engineers and mission
designers, from the University of Maryland, NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory and Ball Aerospace and Technologies
Corporation, Boulder, Colo., have been working for more than
18 months designing the mission, the dual spacecraft and three
science instruments. The encounter with Comet Tempel 1 on
July 4, 2005 will reveal clues to the origin of comets and the
composition and structure of perhaps the most mysterious
objects in our solar system.

     Now the Deep Impact team is completing the final design
details and will begin building the mission's two spacecraft:
a flyby spacecraft and a 350-kilogram (771-pound) impactor
spacecraft. They will be launched together in early 2004 and
travel to Comet Tempel 1's orbit where they will separate and
operate independently. The flyby spacecraft will release the
impactor into the comet's path, then watch from a safe
distance as the impactor guides itself to collide with the
comet, making a football field-sized crater in the comet's

     "This is a major milestone for us," said Dr. Michael
A'Hearn, the prinicipal investigator and director of the Deep
Impact mission, from the University of Maryland, College Park,
Md. "We have now shown NASA that we have a viable design for
the spacecraft and the mission to carry out a truly rare,
large-scale experiment on another body of the solar system."

     "The Deep Impact mission follows in the tradition of
other Discovery missions like Mars Pathfinder and the Near-
Earth Asteroid Rendezvous by doing first of a kind science on
a low-cost, highly focused project," said Brian Muirhead, the
manager of the Deep Impact mission, of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "The project team is fully
prepared to implement this technically challenging and
scientifically unique mission."

     As the gases and ice inside the comet are exposed and
expelled outward by the impact, the flyby spacecraft will take
pictures and measure the composition of the outflowing gas.
The images and data will be transmitted to Earth as quickly as
possible. Many observatories on Earth should be able to see
the comet dramatically brighten just after the impact on July
4, 2005.

     Scientists refer to comets as time capsules that hold
clues about the formation and evolution of the solar system.
Comets are composed of ice and dust, the primitive debris from
the solar system's earliest and coldest formation period, 4.5
billion years ago. They would also like to learn much more
about a comet's composition, structure and how its interior is
different from its surface. The controlled cratering
experiment of the Deep Impact mission will provide answers to
these questions.

     Comet Tempel 1 was discovered in 1867. Orbiting the Sun
every 5.5 years, it has made many passages through the inner
solar system. This makes it a good target to study
evolutionary change in the mantle, or outer crust, of a comet.

     "Ball Aerospace is pleased and proud to be involved with
JPL and the University of Maryland in working on this first of
a kind deep space mission," said Ball's John Marriott, deputy
project manager.

     Principal investigator A'Hearn oversees Deep Impact's
scientific investigations. Project manager Brian Muirhead, of
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages and will operate the
Deep Impact mission for NASA's Office of Space Science,
Washington D.C. JPL is managed by the California Institute of
Technology, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA. John Marriott of Ball
Aerospace and Technology Corporation manages the spacecraft
development in Boulder, Colo.

     Images and more information about the mission are
available on the Web at: A
mirror site is available at .

05/24/01 MJH

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