Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Deep Impact launch date is confirmed for January 12, 2005. The twin spacecraft has moved from Astrotech to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral where it rests atop a Boeing Delta II rocket. I am thrilled and excited because the spacecraft will carry my name to space!

The Air Force weather team is predicting favorable conditions for Wednesday's blastoff of the Boeing Delta 2 rocket carrying NASA's Deep Impact comet probe.

In January 2004, the NASA's Deep Impact mission invited the names of space enthusiasts who want to make a deep impact on a comet. I sent my name to NASA!

On July 4, 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft will impact a copper projectile about the size of a garbage can into the surface of a frozen ball of ice and rock, comet Temple 1, creating a crater about the size of a football stadium. A CD containing the names of those who signed on board for this one- way trip to a celestial snowball will be literally obliterated along with the 370-kilogram (816 pound) copper-tipped impactor.

When the impactor reaches out and touches Temple 1 at about 37,000 kilometers (22,990 miles) per hour, Deep Impact's flyby spacecraft will collect pictures and data. The flyby spacecraft will send its data back to Earth in near real time through the antennas of the Deep Space Network. Simultaneously, professional and amateur astronomers on Earth will observe the ejecta flying from the comet's newly formed crater adding to the data and images collected by the Deep Impact spacecraft and other space telescopes.

This opportunity has enabled me to become part of an extraordinary space mission. When the craft is launched on the prescribed date, names of many space enthusiasts, including me, will hitch along for the ride and be part of what may be the best space fireworks show in history.

Deep Impact is the first deep-space mission that will really reach out and touch a comet. Mission scientists are confident such an intimate glimpse beneath the surface of a comet, where material and debris from the formation of the solar system remain relatively unchanged, will answer basic questions about the formation of the solar system as well as getting a better look at the nature and composition of these celestial wanderers.

This campaign will allow people from around the world to become directly involved with the Deep Impact mission and through that, get them thinking about the scientific reasons for the mission.

Many people submitted their names for this historic one-way mission by visiting NASA's Deep Impact Web site:

The University of Maryland in College Park is home to A'Hearn, who oversees the scientific investigations. Project manager, Rick Grammier, from JPL, manages and operates the Deep Impact mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colo. manages the spacecraft development.

Deep Impact was selected in 1999 as a NASA Discovery mission. The goal of the Discovery Program is to launch smaller, low cost capped missions studying new science questions. The main objective is to enhance understanding of the solar system by exploring the planets, their moons, and small bodies, such as comets and asteroids.

Information about the Deep Impact mission is available on the Internet at: or

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