This illustration shows an artist concept of the NASA Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) spacecraft. CONTOUR will study at least two comets, providing the closest look at the comet’s nucleus we have ever had.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
CONTOUR on its Way to Catch a Comet!
News story originally written on July 3, 2002
NASA’s Comet Nucleus Tour (called CONTOUR) launched July 3, 2002. The CONTOUR spacecraft will fly by at least two comets. It will take pictures and collect dust from the nucleus of each comet. Learning more about comets will help scientists answer some big questions!
One of these big questions is what the solar system was like when it was very young.
Comets formed when our solar system formed. Because they are very old, they may tell us what changes were going on when the solar system formed.
Another big question is how Earth first became a good place for life a long time ago. Comets may have helped! When they showered over the Earth long ago, they may have brought things, like water and carbon, which helped life evolve and grow. If we know more about what comets are made of, we can know if this might be true.
To answer these big questions, the CONTOUR spacecraft will record data from at least two comets. It will encounter Encke in November 2003, and the Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 comet in June 2006.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books
on science education!
You might also be interested in:
Scientists believe that the solar system was formed when a cloud of gas and dust in space was disturbed, maybe by the expl osion of a nearby star (called a supernova). This explosion made waves in space...more
This Windows to the Universe Exploratour examines the scientific evidence of biological evolution. It is available at the intermediate and advanced levels only. To travel through the tour, click the back...more
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The sky was clear and the weather was great. This was the America's 123rd manned space mission. A huge...more
Scientists found a satellite orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is the second one ever! A special telescope allows scientists to look through Earth's atmosphere. The first satellite found was Dactyl....more
The United States wants Russia to put the service module in orbit! The module is part of the International Space Station. It was supposed to be in space over 2 years ago. Russia just sent supplies to the...more
A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. ACE measured some exciting things as the CME material passed...more