Deep Impact spacecraft

Deep Impact spacecraft

Courtesy of NASA

Deep Impact was a flyby and landing mission to gather data about comet Tempel 1—one part of the spacecraft separated from the main craft and purposely crashed into the comet to create a crater. The other part of the spacecraft photographed the impact and gathered information about the comet’s composition.

January 12, 2005

July 4, 2005

End of Mission
This mission ended and the spacecraft was put to sleep in July, 2005. In 2007, the spacecraft was awakened and used in additional missions.

Find answers to these questions:

  • Where is the original material in comets?
  • Do comets lose their ice or seal it in?
  • What do we know about crater formation?

Use a spacecraft built in two parts, (1) an impactor to land on the comet and (2) a flyby section that will photograph the comet from a safe distance during the encounter.

The comet nucleus, about 5 km (3.1 mi) across and 7 (4.3 mi) km tall, was found to be extremely porous with up to 80% empty space. Material from the impact contained more dust and less ice than expected. Analysis of spectra indicated clays, carbonates, sodium, crystalline silicates, and a surprisingly high number of organic molecules. The spacecraft passed just 500 km (300 mi) from the comet, taking pictures of the crater position, the ejecta plume, and the entire cometary nucleus. Professional and amateur astronomers at both large and small telescopes on Earth and in orbit observed the impact and its aftermath. Europe's Rosetta spacecraft, which was about 80 million km from the comet at the time of impact, observed the impact blast a crater about 100 meters wide and up to 30 meters deep. Material ejected from the impact obscured the view so that the spacecraft was unable to image the final crater. Stardust NExT did a flyby on February 14, 2011, to observe the new crater on Tempel 1.