May 31, 2001
NASA approves mission to blast comet
(from USA Today)
PASADENA, Calif. - NASA on Thursday approved a mission designed to send a projectile hurtling into a comet in an effort to bare the dirty space snowball's nucleus for study. The main spacecraft of the $240 million mission is scheduled to be launched in January, 2004. The spacecraft will take 18 months to arrive in the neighborhood of Comet Tempel 1. Once at the comet, the main spacecraft will deploy a smaller, 771-pound impactor to smash into the body on July 4, 2005. The impact should give scientists a glimpse of the comet's interior composition. Researchers have theorized that comets contain pristine examples of the primitive material that formed the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.