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An Extraordinary Week In Space

Last week, two extraordinary events happened in space exploration.

First, a missile carrying NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Wednesday, January 12, 2005. It is scheduled to encounter the comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005.

Deep Impact is comprised of two parts, a "fly-by" spacecraft and a smaller "impactor." The impactor will be released into the comet's path for a planned collision on July 4. The crater produced by the impactor is expected to be up to the size of a football stadium and two to 14 stories deep. Ice and dust debris will be ejected from the crater, revealing the material beneath.

You can read more about this exciting event in this press release from NASA.

Second, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft reached its final destination - Titan, one of Saturn's very chilly moons.

Forcing Titan to surrender its secrets was a principal goal when NASA and the European and Italian space agencies launched the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft in 1997 on a voyage of exploration to Saturn, its rings and seven of its 33 known moons.

Cassini, with Huygens riding piggyback, went into orbit around Saturn last June 30, and on Christmas Eve sent the 700-pound probe on a three-week transit to Titan that culminated in a two-hour, 27-minute parachute drop to the moon's frigid surface. By early afternoon Friday, Huygens had relayed all of its information to Cassini for retransmission to the European Space Operations Centre in this Frankfurt suburb.

Guy Gugliotta, of the Washington Post, wrote about it in a very interesting article.

Posted by Rick | January 17, 2005 02:52 AM

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