Posts Tagged ‘spacecraft’

NASA spacecraft passes the point of closest contact with a comet

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

On Valentine’s Day, as the world was celebrating the message of love, a NASA spacecraft reached the point of closest contact with a comet calculated to be half the size of Manhattan.

The periodic comet, Tempel 1, was discovered by German astronomer Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel in 1867. In every 5.5 years, the comet completes one orbit around the Sun with its orbital paths lying in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Tempel 1 was previously visited by NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft on July 4, 2005. The current fly-by of the comet by NASA’s Stardust spacecraft is the first time that a comet has been re-visited to look for changes on its surface.

During the encounter phase, the spacecraft will carry out many important milestones which include turning the spacecraft to point its protective shields between it and the anticipated direction from which cometary particles would approach. Another important milestone includes scientific imaging of the comet’s nucleus. (more…)