Deep Impact successfully passed closest approach, signal reaquired, data downlinking
Just a very brief update to congratulate the Deep Impact team on what was apparently a successful flyby of Hartley 2! There are no new images yet, but telemetry indicated that the spacecraft kept the comet at the center of its field of view throughout approach, acquired 199 medium-resolution images with no errors in the sequence, and kept within a few kilometers of its planned trajectory. After that there was an expected 5-minute loss of signal as the spacecraft turned to switch from using its low-gain antenna at 512 bits per second to its high-gain antenna at 200,000 bits per second. The newly upgraded 70-meter antenna at Goldstone has locked onto the spacecraft's signal and is now receiving the spacecraft's downlink. The first images to hit the ground will not be the closest-approach images. Those should get to Earth about an hour after closest approach, at about 8:00 am Pacific (15:00 UTC).
I will, of course, post any images as they become available! Stay tuned to this blog!