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The Story of Comet Crunch Ice Cream

Members of the University of Maryland's Astronomy Department and Administration tasted Comet Crunch ice cream at its debut in April.
Members of the University of Maryland's Astronomy Department and Administration tasted Comet Crunch ice cream at its debut in April. Professor Vogel of the UM Astronomy department commented, "The albedo (intrinsic brightness) and the temperature of the ice cream are too high to be a comet, but it tastes pretty good."
The ice cream is a limited edition available at the University's dairy while supplies last.

Deep Impact isn't just a mission to an icy comet. It's also a mission with its own ice cream called Comet Crunch. The idea for this cosmic dessert began with the very birth of the mission in 1999. It was the dream and passion of one of Deep Impact's outreach members, Maura Rountree-Brown who thought it would be wonderful as a flavor of the month. Over the course of the next several years, she inquired about having the ice cream made. But, when Comet Crunch finally found a home, it found it in a small dairy at the University of Maryland close to the Deep Impact mission's own Principal Investigator, Dr. Mike A'Hearn. That was when Naruki Hirai, a College Park Scholar student at the university, heard of the idea from Dr. Lucy McFadden, head of Education and Public Outreach for the mission who remembered it. Naruki was, at first, ambivalent but he agreed to take the project on.

Comet Crunch is ...
  • Chocolate ganache ice cream
  • Nestle crunch pieces
  • Oreo pieces
  • Caramel swirl
  • Chocolate crunch
  • Vanilla crunch
  • Cointreau
  • Now, looking for a home for an ice cream isn't part of a student's normal class load and Naruki had some fear that the idea might hit people - well - cold! Beginning with phone calls to the University's Dining Services, Naruki transitioned from not really knowing what Comet Crunch should be like to building research that would lead to a novel product. "I made a phone call to Pat Higgins, the Head of Dining Services. We talked for about 10 minutes discussing the whole process of developing an ice cream and its price.

    There were two considerations for Comet Crunch Ice Cream. First of all, it needed a flavor that would be unique. "We also needed money in order to purchase the ingredients since Dining Services would not make our ice cream for free. Lucy McFadden and I decided that the best way to approach the situation was to get the support of the President's Office at the university."

    The only obstacle I encountered was to make Comet Crunch have a "Dirty Snowball" appearance without it tasting like one. This took several attempts before the ice cream had the right look and flavor.
    Chef Jeff Russo

    Sapienza Barone assistant to the President, liked the idea but said that the university had no funds to support it. Even though they didn't have the financial resources, Lucy and Naruki agreed that the chance of having Comet Crunch was getting close enough to almost taste it.

    Deep Impact PI Mike A'Hearn coaches University of Maryland's Provost, Ann Wylie, and science team member, Lucy McFadden, in scooping Comet Crunch ice cream for its debut at the University.
    Deep Impact PI Mike A'Hearn coaches University of Maryland's Provost, Ann Wylie, and science team member, Lucy McFadden, in scooping Comet Crunch ice cream for its debut at the University.

    "The Monday after we talked to Sapienza Barone, I received an email from her indicating that the Directors of Dining Services approved the idea. We also received confirmation that they would pay for the ice cream and have it available by Maryland Day. Lucy and I were absolutely ecstatic. Furthermore, Chef Russo, who I talked with earlier during the semester, agreed to develop a flavor. "Through this whole experience, I've learned that it takes a lot of different people to get things done," Naruki recounts.

    A great idea takes many turns and the influence of a lot of people, but a great idea it is and Naruki Hirai was first in line to taste the fruits of his labor when the ice cream was introduced on Maryland Day, April 30, 2005.

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    Last Updated: 28 Jun 2010