Feeds

NASA throws Deep Impact spacecraft at comet

Cosmic darts

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA has is to send a probe on a collision course with a comet's nucleus to find out more about the composition and history of the bodies.

The mission, dubbed "Deep Impact", launches from Florida on 12 January and will arrive at its destination, the comet Tempel 1, six months later, on 4 July. It will then deploy a probe - a 360kg, metre-long, cylindrical projectile - that will collide with the comet at around 37,000 kph.

Scientists hope that the space craft will create a crater in the surface of the comet, and so allow them a glimpse of the interior. It is possible, however, that the probe will merely be destroyed on impact (it is designed to be) without damaging the comet at all.

The probe will carry a camera to capture images of the comet's surface as it approaches, but the mothership will be nearby, recording events.

"We will be capturing the whole thing on the most powerful camera to fly in deep space," said Dr. Michael A'Hearn, Deep Impact's principal investigator and astronomy professor at the University of Maryland. "We know so little about the structure of cometary nuclei that we need exceptional equipment to ensure that we capture the event, whatever the details of the impact turn out to be."

Deep Impact follows the launch of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. This mission aims to land on the surface of a comet and conduct a number of experiments, including analysis of the composition of the comet, and the interaction of the comet with the solar wind.

NASA's mission was originally scheduled to launch this month, but an equipment review found some faults that needed correction. It is schedule to depart on 12 January, but the launch window lasts a bit longer, and the mission will be able to go ahead up until 28 January. ®

Related stories

Burt Rutan takes a V2-powered wander down memory lane
Ariane 5 powers satellite into orbit
Mysterious Phoebe: Cassini's next fly-by
Comet chasers seek secret of life

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.