Deep Impact Space Probe Collided with Comet July 4, 2005
Deep Impact is a NASA space probe launched on January 12, 2005. It was designed to study the composition of the comet interior of 9P/Tempel, by releasing an impactor into the comet. At 5:52 UTC on July 4, 2005, the impactor successfully collided with the comet’s nucleus. The impact excavated debris from the interior of the nucleus, allowing photographs of the impact crater. The photographs showed the comet to be more dusty and less icy than had been expected. The impact generated a large and bright dust cloud, which unexpectedly obscured the view of the impact crater.
Previous space missions to comets, such as Giotto and Stardust, were fly-by missions. These missions were only able to photograph and examine the surfaces of cometary nuclei from a distance. The Deep Impact mission was the first to eject material from a comet’s surface, and the mission garnered large publicity from the media, international scientists, and amateur astronomers.
Upon the completion of its primary mission, proposals were made to further utilize the spacecraft. Consequently, Deep Impact flew by Earth on December 31, 2007 on its way to an extended mission, designated EPOXI, with a dual purpose to study extrasolar planets and comet Hartley 2.