Yes, I'm a dork. I still think this mission is outrageously cool, not to mention incredibly important in terms of our understandings of the make-up of comets and the Universe in general. Plus, I don't care if you think I'm a dork. Some chicks dig dorks. Ok maybe that's pushing it. Still, I don't care.
April 27, 2005
Dolores Beasley/Erica Hupp
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
NASA'S DEEP IMPACT SPACECRAFT SPOTS ITS QUARRY, STALKING BEGINS
Sixty-nine days before it gets up-close-and-personal with a comet, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft successfully photographed its quarry, comet Tempel 1, at a distance of 39.7 million miles.
The image, the first of many comet portraits it will take over the next 10 weeks, will aid Deep Impact's navigators, engineers and scientists as they plot their final trajectory toward an Independence Day encounter.
"It is great to get a first glimpse at the comet from our spacecraft," said Deep Impact principal investigator, Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park, Md. "With daily observations beginning in May, Tempel 1 will become noticeably more impressive as we continue to close the gap between spacecraft and comet. What is now little more than a few pixels across will evolve by July 4 into the best, most detailed images of a comet ever taken," he added.
The ball of dirty ice and rock was detected on April 25 by Deep Impact's Medium Resolution Instrument on the very first attempt. While making the detection, the spacecraft's camera saw stars as dim as 11th visual magnitude, more than 100 times dimmer than a human can see on a clear night.
"This is the first of literally thousands of images we will take of Tempel 1 for both science and navigational purposes," said deputy program manager Keyur Patel at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Our goal is to impact a 39 inch long spacecraft into about a 4 mile wide comet that is bearing down on it at 6.3 miles per second, while both are 83 million miles away from Earth.(read that part again-ed.) By finding the comet as early and as far away as we did is a definite aid to our navigation."
Above-Comet Tempel 1 as photographed By Deep Impact at a distance of 39.7 million miles.
For more information, go visit the Deep Impact site here.....Happy Hunting JPL, this will make for one memorable 4th of July....