National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
News & Events
NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft Spots Its Quarry, Stalking Begins
NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft Spots Its Quarry, Stalking Begins
27 Apr 2005
(Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Dolores Beasley/Erica Hupp
Headquarters, Washington
April 27, 2005
(Phone: 202/358-1753/1237)

D.C. Agle Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif. (Phone: 818/393-9011)

RELEASE: 05-108

NASA'S DEEP IMPACT SPACECRAFT SPOTS ITS QUARRY, STALKING BEGINS
Sixty-nine days before it gets up-close-and-personal with a comet, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully photographed its quarry, comet Tempel 1, at a distance of 39.7 million miles.

Sixty-nine days before it gets up-close-and-personal with a comet, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully photographed its quarry, comet Tempel 1, at a distance of 39.7 million miles.
Sixty-nine days before it gets up-close-and-personal with a comet, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully photographed its quarry, comet Tempel 1, at a distance of 39.7 million miles.
The image, the first of many comet portraits it will take over the next 10 weeks, will aid Deep Impact's navigators, engineers and scientists as they plot their final trajectory toward an Independence Day encounter.

"It is great to get a first glimpse at the comet from our spacecraft," said Deep Impact principal investigator, Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park, Md. "With daily observations beginning in May, Tempel 1 will become noticeably more impressive as we continue to close the gap between spacecraft and comet. What is now little more than a few pixels across will evolve by July 4 into the best, most detailed images of a comet ever taken," he added.

The ball of dirty ice and rock was detected on April 25 by Deep Impact's Medium Resolution Instrument on the very first attempt. While making the detection, the spacecraft's camera saw stars as dim as 11th visual magnitude, more than 100 times dimmer than a human can see on a clear night. "This is the first of literally thousands of images we will take of Tempel 1 for both science and navigational purposes," said deputy program manager Keyur Patel at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Our goal is to impact a 39 inch long spacecraft into about a 4 mile wide comet that is bearing down on it at 6.3 miles per second, while both are 83 million miles away from Earth. By finding the comet as early and as far away as we did is a definite aid to our navigation."

Deep Impact is comprised of two parts, a "flyby" spacecraft and a smaller "impactor." The impactor will be released into the comet's path for a planned high-speed collision on July 4. The crater produced by the impact could range in size from the width of a large house up to the size of a football stadium and from 2 to 14 stories deep. Ice and dust debris will be ejected from the crater, revealing the material beneath.

The Deep Impact spacecraft has four data collectors to observe the effects of the collision - a camera and infrared spectrometer comprise the High Resolution Instrument, a Medium Resolution Instrument, and a duplicate of that camera on the impactor (called the Impactor Targeting Sensor-ITS) that will record the vehicle's final moments before it is run over by comet Tempel 1 at a speed of about 23,000 miles per hour.

The overall Deep Impact mission management for this Discovery class program is conducted by the University of Maryland. Deep Impact project management is handled by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colo.

To view the image on the Internet, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/deepimpact/multimedia/deepimpact-tempel-042705b.html

For more information about Deep Impact on the Internet, visit:
http://deepimpact.jpl.nasa.gov

For more information about NASA on the Internet, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov

News Archive Search  Go!
Show  results per page
 
 
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writer: Autumn Burdick
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> USA.gov
> ExpectMore.gov
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 1 Apr 2014