Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Congratulations To The Deep Impact Mission Crew........


A job very, very well done-


The hyper-speed demise of NASA's Deep Impact probe generated an immense flash of light, which provided an excellent light source for the two cameras on the Deep Impact mothership. Deep Impact scientists theorize the 820-pound impactor vaporized deep below the comet's surface when the two collided at 1:52 am July 4, at a speed of about 10 kilometers per second (6.3 miles per second or 23,000 miles per hour).

"You can not help but get a big flash when objects meet at 23,000 miles per hour," said Deep Impact co-investigator Dr. Pete Schultz of Brown University, Providence, R.I. "The heat produced by impact was at least several thousand degrees Kelvin and at that extreme temperature just about any material begins to glow. Essentially, we generated our own incandescent photo flash for less than a second."

The flash created by the impact was just one of the visual surprises that confronted the Deep Impact team. Preliminary assessment of the images and data downlinked from the flyby spacecraft have provided an amazing glimpse into the life of a comet.

"They say a picture can speak a thousand words," said Deep Impact Project Manager Rick Grammier of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "But when you take a look at some of the ones we captured in the early morning hours of July 4, 2005 I think you can write a whole encyclopedia."

At a news conference held later on July 4, Deep Impact team members displayed a movie depicting the final moments of the impactor's life. The final image from the impactor was transmitted from the short-lived probe three seconds before it met its fiery end.

"The final image was taken from a distance of about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the comet's surface," said Deep Impact Principal Investigator Dr. Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland, College Park. "From that close distance we can resolve features on the surface that are less than 4 meters (about 13 feet) across. When I signed on for this mission I wanted to get a close-up look at a comet, but this is ridiculous? in a great way."

How about dem apples? NASA and crew performed about as perfectly as one could have hoped. The impactor made several autonomous adjustments during it's flight towards Tempel 1, since the 7 1/2 minute delay time between earth and the impactor made it impossible for there to be any adjustments from mission control. The redundant systems on board did not get used and the impactor hit within the adjusted crosshairs almost dead on.

Here are two movies very much worth clicking to get the big picture-

This first one was taken from the flyby spacecraft. It shows the flash that occurred when comet Tempel 1 ran over the spacecraft's probe. It was taken by the flyby craft's high-resolution camera over a period of about 40 seconds. And remember- this is all happening over 80 million miles away.

Movie from the Fly-by spacecraft-

This movie shows the impactor probe approaching comet Tempel 1. It is made up of images taken by the probe's impactor targeting sensor. It goes fast, but again let's remember- the probe was travelling at 10 kilometers per second (6.3 miles per second or 23,000 miles per hour). So the movie goes fast.

More images at the Deep Impact website here...the following pic is I think my favorite- it was taken by the impactor minutes before impact, a closeup of a comet you don't get to see every day...

Again, Congratulations to Dr. Michael A'Hearn, University of Maryland, Rick Grammier, JPL as well as the entire crew at JPL, the University of Maryland, CalTech, and NASA. This was a huge success for the various programs listed above.

Now, we can analyze data for years, and ideally use this information to further our understanding of the universe and the elements that compose the building blocks of our solar system.

There is of course another added benefit, now that we know we can autonomously launch un unmanned spacecraft to a comet millions of miles away, we can now start seriously proposing a mission for the B612 Project. Deep Impact just blew open some doors that were in great need of being knocked open...

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