St. Petersburg Times
 tampabaycom
tampabay.com

Print storySubscribe to the Times

Space

Comet mission to create cosmic fireworks

By Associated Press
Published January 3, 2005

CAPE CANAVERAL - The big, grown-up boys on the NASA team can hardly wait. Next Fourth of July, they get to bust up a comet, Hollywood-style.

"Blow things up? I'm there. Yeah, I don't have any issue with that," says Richard Grammier, manager of the project for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (And, oh yeah, he used to work with explosives in the military.)

The spacecraft is called Deep Impact , just like the 1998 movie about a comet headed straight for Earth. NASA's goal is to blast a crater into Comet Tempel 1 and analyze the ice, dust and other primordial stuff hurled out of the pit.

Mission planners say the energy produced will be like 4.5 tons of TNT going off - producing a fireworks display for the world's observatories.

Scientists know little about comets and even less about their nuclei, or cores. They believe that penetrating the interior for observations by space and ground telescopes is the next best thing to actually landing, scooping up samples and delivering them to Earth.

Liftoff is targeted for Jan. 12, two weeks late because of software and rocket problems. NASA has until Jan. 28 to launch Deep Impact . After that, Tempel 1 will be beyond rocket reach and scientists will have to pick another comet and swallow a lengthy delay.

The entire $330-million mission should be wrapped up a month after impact.

Astronomers are counting on Deep Impact to live up to its Hollywood name on July 4, six months after its mid January launch.

This is one spacecraft NASA wants to smash and trash.

"We expect to provide great fireworks for all our observatories," Grammier says, "and that's exciting to do it on July Fourth."

[Last modified January 3, 2005, 02:20:23]


World and national headlines

  • Danilo's war
  • Reality of adoption search no fairy tale
  • After Bush holiday, a full plate
  • Faith-based funds $1.17-billion in '03
  • Why Colombia?
  • Abbas urges end to rocket attacks by Arabs
  • Nationalists kill four police in Peru

  • Disaster in Asia
  • Gov. Bush heads to Asia to check tsunami damage
  • Movie stars take over the heavy cleanup

  • Iraq
  • Attacks kill 33; Shiites say vote must be on time
  • U.S. envoy: Syria tightens border control

  • Nation in brief
  • 1,500 flee after fire threatens toxic smoke

  • Obituary
  • She changed the public face of U.S. politics

  • Space
  • Comet mission to create cosmic fireworks

  • World in brief
  • Canada confirms 2nd positive mad cow test
  • Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111