Comets and Asteroids
In 2005, Deep Impact was the first spacecraft to study the interior of a comet. On July 4, it encountered comet Tempel1 and, using an impactor, excavated a crater on the cometís surface. The spacecraft observed and recorded the impact, the material ejected, and the structure and composition of the craterís interior.
Artist concept courtesy of NASA/Jet Propulsion-Caltech
Rosetta Spies Lutetia
Launched in 2004, Rosetta is on a mission to study a comet. After a long journey to the outer solar system, the spacecraft will intercept comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in January 2014. Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to land a robot on a comet and the first to accompany one as it enters the inner solar system. This is an international mission led by the European Space Agency with support from NASA.
Image courtesy of ESA 2010 MPS for OSIRIS Team
Hayabusa Returns From Itokawa
After experiencing some technical problems, Hayabusa departed Itokawa in January 2007 and began its long journey home. On June 13, 2010, the spacecraft entered Earthís atmosphere over Woomera Test Range in South Australia. After jettisoning its sample return capsule, Hayabusa disintegrated. The capsule parachuted safely to Earth and was then taken to Japan for study. If it does contain material from Itokawa, it will be the first sample collected from an asteroid and returned to Earth.
A. Image of Itokawa taken by Hayabusa.
B. Aerial view of the sample return capsule and its parachute in the Australian outback.
Images courtesy of Institute of Space and Astronautical Research/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
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