This computer-generated drawing shows from left to right, Comet Tempel 1, the Deep Impact impactor and the flyby spacecraft.
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Courtesy of NASA
Deep Impact Mission
NASA chose Deep Impact to be part of a special series called the Discovery Program on July 7, 1999. The Discovery program specializes in low-cost, scientific projects. In May 2001, Deep Impact was given the "go" from NASA to start with mission development. Deep Impact already has a preliminary launch date of January 6, 2004.
The Deep Impact mission is simple; blast a hole in Comet Tempel 1 that is the size of a football field and is 7 stories deep! Deep Impact will consist of large spacecraft and an impactor. The 770 pound impactor will be released from the flyby spacecraft. Moving at speeds up to 22,300 MPH, the copper impactor will collide with the comet on July 4, 2005. Scientists can then study the core of the comet, the surface of the comet and the material that is blasted off of the comet from impact.
Deep Impact is to complement two other comet missions. These two missions are called Stardust and Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR). Stardust will gather comet dust and bring it back to Earth, while CONTOUR will fly by three different comets.
A similar project that would have landed a probe on Tempel 1 was scrapped by NASA because of a lack of funding.
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