Deep Impact, Stardust To Be Re-Enlisted For Duty
When it comes to recycling, NASA engineers are quickly becoming
experts on the matter. The space agency said Tuesday it plans to
reuse two older spacecraft on new missions to study comets and
planets around other stars.
The Los Angeles Times reports NASA's Stardust and Deep Impact
probes will soon be re-enlisted to study other planetary bodies.
Both spacecraft completed their primary missions within the past
As ANN reported, Deep Impact
sent a impactor probe into comet Tempel 1 in 2005, carving a crater
and sending a debris cloud from the comet's core into space. The
main spacecraft was put into safe mode shortly after, to conserve
Stardust flew by comet Wild 2 in 2004, collecting interstellar
matter with a specialized mitt before launching a recovery capsule
back to Earth. Scientists have been giddily studying that matter
ever since the capsule successfully touched down in the Utah
desert in January 2006.
For its new mission, Stardust will be sent toward a 2011
rendezvous with Tempel 1, the first time a comet will be revisited.
NASA hopes the probe will be able to capture images of the heavenly
body, something Deep Impact failed to do (the debris cloud
obstructed its view.)
As for Deep Impact, the space agency will reactivate the probe
later this year for a planned two-part mission. NASA plans to use
the probe as an observatory, collecting information on extrasolar
planets and distant stars. In December 2008, the probe will also
pass comet 85P/Boethin, becoming the first spacecraft to explore
the small comet that was discovered in 1975.
Scientists hope Deep Impact will be able to collect information
to determine if comets played a role in the emergence of life on
While NASA isn't saying how much the new missions will cost, the
fact reusing the older spacecraft will be far cheaper than planning
two new missions is obvious.
Michael A'Hearn, principal investigator for the Deep Impact team
at the University of Maryland, says NASA allotted $30 million for
the mission -- about $10 million less than researchers wanted.
While disappointed, he told the Times the team will make it