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National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Touring the Comets
News story originally written on December 1, 1997

NASA has chosen CONTOUR as the next mission in its Discovery Program. CONTOUR stands for the Comet Nucleus Tour.

CONTOUR will explore at least three comets by flying very close to them. At one point, CONTOUR will be within 60 miles of the Comet Encke!

The comets it will focus on are the Comet Encke, Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann-3, and the Comet d'Arrest. The mission will be launched in July 2002 and comet flybys will go on until August of 2008.

The Discovery Program sponsors lower-cost programs. Among its achievements is the NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) program that sent a spacecraft for a flyby of the asteroid Mathilde in June of 1997.

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