This first image shows CONTOUR breezing past a comet nucleus (artist's rendition). The second image is a picture of all of the orbits involved. It shows how CONTOUR will be able to intersect the paths of the three comets.
Images Courtesy of NASA

The COmet Nucleus TOUR (CONTOUR) is one of the latest missions to join NASA's Discovery Program, a low cost program. The spacecraft will begin its journey in 2002 and will study comets until 2008. The three targeted comets are Comet Encke, Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann-3 and Comet d'Arrest.

CONTOUR will fly by these comets and take pictures of their nuclei. This type of mission was last performed in the mid-80's with Comet Halley by the European Space Agency (ESA). It will also collect comet dust for analysis.

The goal of the mission to learn more about these unique objects. Scientists say that learning more about the make up of comets will help us to better understand the Earth.

CONTOUR mission page

Other comet missions

Last modified December 7, 2000 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Missions to Halley's comet in 1986

Six spacecraft flew by Halley's comet in 1986. There were two spacecraft launched from Japan, Suisei and Sakigake, and two from the Soviet Union, Vega 1 & 2. One spacecraft, ICE, from the United States...more

CONTOUR on its Way to Catch a Comet!

NASA’s Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR), launched July 3, 2002. The CONTOUR spacecraft will fly by at least two comets, taking pictures and collecting dust from the nucleus of each comet to help scientists...more

CONTOUR Lost in Space

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...more

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...more


A spacecraft named Cassini will study the planet Saturn for several years. Cassini blasted off from Earth in October 1997. After flying past Venus, Earth, and Jupiter, Cassini finally arrived at Saturn...more


The MErcury Surface Space ENvironment, GEochemistry Ranging mission (MESSENGER) was chosen as the next mission to Mercury. The Mariner 10 spacecraft last visited Mercury in 1975. Since then, scientists...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA