PASADENA (AP) — A NASA spacecraft is getting up close and personal with a small comet.
Mission controllers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory clapped and cheered Thursday when the Deep Impact craft sent a signal to Earth minutes after the planned flyby of comet Hartley 2, telling them it’s still alive.
Scientists are waiting for the first images to be beamed back that will show them how the rendezvous went.
Thursday’s mission is not the first for Deep Impact. In 2005, it dazzled the world when it fired a copper probe into another comet Tempel 1, giving scientists their first look at the interior.
Scientists are interested in comets because they’re icy leftovers from the formation of the solar system. Studying them could provide clues to how Earth and the planets formed 4.5 billion years ago.
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