Mission Overview

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Spacecraft Flyby Spacecraft Flyby

Flyby and Impactor Flyby and Impactor

Spacecraft Assembly Spacecraft Assembly

Deep Impact

Launched in January 2005, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft traveled about 431 million kilometers (268 million miles) to the vicinity of comet Tempel 1. On July 3, 2005, the spacecraft deployed an impactor that was essentially "run over" by the nucleus of comet Tempel 1 on July 4. This deep space collision took place at the speed of about 37,000 kilometers per hour (23,000 miles per hour). Before, during and after the demise of this 372-kilogram (820-pound) impactor, a "flyby" spacecraft watched the 6.5-kilometer (about 4-mile) wide comet nucleus from nearby, collecting pictures and data of the event.

The impactor's impact with comet Tempel 1 formed a large crater, with ice and dust debris ejecting from the crater. Sunlight reflecting off the ejected material provided a dramatic brightening. This brightening slowly faded as the debris dissipated into space and fell back onto the comet.

Sixteen days after comet encounter, the Deep Impact team placed the spacecraft on a trajectory to fly past Earth in late December 2007. The spacecraft was then reconfigured for a new mission called Epoxi.

This mission is the first attempt to peer beneath the surface of a comet to reveal freshly exposed material for clues to the early formation of the solar system. Deep Impact mission scientists are confident that findings from this intimate glimpse beneath the surface of a comet, where material and debris from the formation of the solar system remain relatively unchanged, will answer basic questions about the formation of the solar system and offer a better look at the nature and composition of these celestial travelers.

Competitively selected under NASA's Discovery Program, the project is managed by JPL and the spacecraft was be built by Ball Aerospace. The team is led by Dr. Michael A'Hearn, a principal investigator affiliated with the University of Maryland.

Mission Details:
Purpose: Comet penetrator

Fast Facts:
Launch: January 12, 2005

Related Links:
+ Latest mission news
+ Deep Impact home page
+ NASA's Discovery Program