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Solar System Exploration
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CONTOUR Mission to Comets

Goals: CONTOUR (COmet Nucleus TOUR) was designed to make a detailed study of the interior of two very different comets, Encke and Schwassmann-Wachmann-3, as they made their periodic visits to the inner solar system.

Accomplishments: None. Contact with the spacecraft was lost after an 15 Aug. 2002 engine burn that was intended to propel it out of Earth orbit. A mishap investigation board determined that overheating during the engine burn caused the spacecraft to break apart.

Key Dates
3 Jul 2002:  Launch (06:47 UT)
Status: Unsuccessful
Fast Facts
CONTOUR Facts CONTOUR stands for Comet Nucleus Tour.

Mission controllers were able to track pieces of CONTOUR (right) after the spacecraft broke up.

CONTOUR was to study comets Encke and Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.

CONTOUR's breakup was confirmed in images such as the one on the right.

CONTOUR was intended to make close studies of two comets with the possibility of a visiting a third comet.

One of the targeted comets -- Encke -- has been observed at more apparitions--57--than any other comet including Halley.

This mission was part of NASA's Discovery program of lower-cost, highly focused planetary science investigations.
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Last Updated: 18 Jun 2015