April 1, 2003
NEW LAUNCH DATE FOR DEEP IMPACT
A new launch window is announced for the Deep Impact project, the first mission to look deep inside a comet. Technical and management issues, including contamination in the propulsion system and late deliveries of key spacecraft components, resulted in delays in the pre-flight testing schedule. These concerns led Deep Impact Principal Investigator, Mike A'Hearn, to recommend to NASA a delay of launch. A launch window beginning December 30, 2004, previously identified as a back-up date, provides more thorough testing for the spacecraft systems before launch and allows the spacecraft to arrive at Comet Tempel 1 to impact it as originally scheduled on July, 4, 2005. NASA management approved the recommendation.
Deep Impact will be the first mission to make a spectacular, football-stadium-sized crater, seven to 15 stories deep, into the speeding comet. Dramatic images from both the flyby spacecraft and the impactor will be sent back to distant Earth as data in near-realtime. These first-ever views deep beneath a comet's surface, and additional scientific measurements will provide clues to the formation of the solar system. Amateur astronomers will combine efforts with astronomers at larger telescopes to offer the public an earth-based look at this incredible July 2005 encounter with a comet.