Craft Blasts Off on Collision Course with Comet

An artist's rendering depicts the moment of impact and the forming of the crater on Comet Tempel 1.

An artist's rendering depicts the moment of impact and the forming of the crater on Comet Tempel 1. Pat Rawlings /NASA hide caption

itoggle caption Pat Rawlings /NASA

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft set off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday on a 268-million-mile collision course with a comet. If all goes as planned, the craft will crash into Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, creating a massive crater and releasing particles that could provide a glimpse into the origins of the solar system.

Deep Impact is actually a two-part spacecraft: a mother ship and an impactor that will break free shortly before the day of impact. A camera onboard the impactor will capture the crash and film the dust released once the comet's surface is penetrated.

Mission Animations

Watch a NASA animation of what Deep Impact's collision with the comet is expected to look like from the point of view of the high-resolution camera onboard:

Watch a NASA animation charting Deep Impact's journey to, and encounter with, Comet Tempel 1:

* Note: Links go directly to NASA's site. Quicktime required.

NPR's Melissa Block discusses the mission with Dr. Donald Yeomans of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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