This illustration shows an artist concept of the NASA Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) spacecraft.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
CONTOUR Lost in Space
News story originally written on August 27, 2002
We are sad to report that the Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR) is currently lost in space. The CONTOUR spacecraft was launched July 3, 2002 to explore the nucleus of comets. It was scheduled to fly by at least two comets over the next few years, taking pictures and collecting dust from the nucleus of each.
Controllers lost contact with CONTOUR on Aug. 15, when its rocket ignited 140 miles above the Earth to boost the spacecraft out of Earth's orbit. Controllers expected to regain contact within an hour, but there has been no contact with CONTOUR since the rockets ignited.
By searching the skies with the telescope in Kitt Peak, Arizona, scientists found three objects in the location where CONTOUR should be. Since CONTOUR was originally in one piece, these pictures may indicate that it has broken apart.
Mission controllers may have lost CONTOUR but they have not lost hope! There is a possibility that the main part of the spacecraft is still intact if only non-essential parts fell off. They will continue listening for signals from the spacecraft until early December, when CONTOUR will be in a better location to receive a signal from Earth.
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