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When Stardust Met Tempel, a Love Story

15 Feb 2011, 22:52 UTC
When Stardust Met Tempel, a Love Story
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A NASA spacecraft, a lonely comet and a Valentine’s date with no comparison. Last night, NASA’s veteran Stardust-NExT mission successfully visited its second comet, Tempel 1. Having already been visited by NASA’s Deep Impact mission in 2005, it’s hard not to wonder whether Tempel 1 was a little apprehensive. Deep Impact did lob a refrigerator-sized [...]

Comet Tempel 1 near Stardust-NExT close approach (NASA)
A NASA spacecraft, a lonely comet and a Valentine’s date with no comparison.
Last night, NASA’s veteran Stardust-NExT mission successfully visited its second comet, Tempel 1. Having already been visited by NASA’s Deep Impact mission in 2005, it’s hard not to wonder whether Tempel 1 was a little apprehensive. Deep Impact did lob a refrigerator-sized copper impactor into the comet’s surface during the 2005 encounter, so I think we can forgive the comet some pre-date jitters.
Fortunately, Stardust was the perfect date (no impactors, silverware, dishes or bottles were thrown), just a peaceful flyby, during which the spacecraft beamed dozens of photos back to Earth. To quote Joe Veverka, Stardust-NExT principal investigator: “It was 1,000 percent successful!”
Alas, although the date was a success, there won’t be the sound of wedding bells any time soon. ...

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