Feeds

EPOXI set to give comet some stick

NASA spacecraft gaining on Hartley 2

Intelligent flash storage arrays

NASA's EPOXI spacecraft is gaining fast on comet Hartley 2, ahead of a scheduled close approach tomorrow at around 14:00 GMT.

At the appointed hour, EPOXI will pass within 700 kilometers (435 miles) of the comet's nucleus, while its two imagers and single infrared instrument capture intimate data.

EPOXI image of Hartley 2. Pic: NASAEPOXI is currently closing on Hartley 2 (see pic*) at a rate of 12.3 kilometers (7.6 miles) per second. NASA enthusiastically explains: "When the EPOXI mission spacecraft is 18 hours and 798 thousand kilometers (496 thousand miles) away, it will lock its instruments on the comet and begin its encounter phase data collection.

"As the distances between man-made machine and mysterious space dirtball closes, the frequency of image-taking will increase, reaching a crescendo in the minutes surrounding approach. All data collected during encounter phase will be loaded into spacecraft memory for later playback."

During the last 50 minutes before hurtling past the mysterious space dirtball, EPOXI will be flying itself on AutoNav Mode. This involves its Medium-Resolution Imager sniffing out "the brightest light source in the sky (excluding the sun)", which it then takes to be the comet's nucleus and the AutoNav "adjusts the spacecraft's attitude accordingly to keep its imagers centered".

Tim Larson, EPOXI project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, elaborated in a glorious mishmash of metric and imperial units: "We're using AutoNav Mode because our mission control is 23 million miles away from the spacecraft at time of encounter. Any command we would send to the spacecraft would take 75 seconds to get there. Not the kind of thing you want to do when you're talking about hurtling past a 2.2 kilometer-wide object [1.36 miles] at 27,500 miles per hour [about 44,256 kilometers per hour]."

NASA has more on the nail-biting comet pursuit here, and a Hartley 2 mission summary here (pdf). ®

Bootnote

* NASA explains EPOXI "took this image of comet Hartley 2 on 2 November, 2010 from a distance of 2.3 million kilometers (1.4 million miles)".

It elaborates: "The white blob and the halo around it are the comet's outer cloud of gas and dust, called a coma. At this distance, the spacecraft is capturing images with a resolution of about 23 kilometers/pixel (14 miles/pixel)".

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.