In last week’s That Was The Week That Was, I neglected to celebrate a significant milestone: July 4, 2010, marked the 5th anniversary of the Deep Impact encounter with Comet 9P/Tempel. On July 4, 2005, the Deep Impact spacecraft hurled a heavy mass into the comet, excavating a crater and exposing fresh interior comet stuff to scientific analysis. Feel free to pause and feast on dramatic comet-smashing images and then catch up on the scientific findings.
Mike A’Hearn at the University of Maryland headed the Deep Impact science team, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California managed the project. So why is gogblog nattering on about Deep Impact?
One Goddard connection to Deep Impact is asteroid and meteorite scientist Lucy McFadden. She was a member of the Deep Impact science team and led the mission’s education and public outreach effort. She recently joined Goddard as Chief of University and Post-doctoral Programs. Although her job here is administrative, she remains an active researcher.
In Deep Impact’s present configuration, the Goddard links increase.
First, some brief background. The spacecraft is very much alive, and it’s still working for planetary science. The reincarnation of Deep Impact is called EPOXI. It’s actually two missions in one: the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EPOCh) mission and the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI).
EPOCh scrutinized a small number of stars in order to learn more about planets that we know are orbiting those stars, and to search for clues to other planets that might be orbiting the same stars. It also imaged Earth to get insights into how we might recognize an Earth-like world around another star. DIXI will study comet 103P/Hartley 2 during a November 2010 encounter.
McFadden is now working with EPOCh’s observations of Earth — more on this in a future blog post. And Goddard’s Drake Deming, a leading exoplanet scientist, heads the EPOCh component of EPOXI.
Yep, that’s a lot of acronyms. A little confusing, even. But stay tuned, because you’ll be seeing them more often in the future in the science press and on gogblog.
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.