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Emily LakdawallaSeptember 20, 2013

The Deep Impact Mission is officially over

The Deep Impact mission is over. The end was announced in a NASA press release today. There was a little more detail about what they believe to have been the problem:

After losing contact with the spacecraft last month, mission controllers spent several weeks trying to uplink commands to reactivate its onboard systems. Although the exact cause of the loss is not known, analysis has uncovered a potential problem with computer time tagging that could have led to loss of control for Deep Impact's orientation. That would then affect the positioning of its radio antennas, making communication difficult, as well as its solar arrays, which would in turn prevent the spacecraft from getting power and allow cold temperatures to ruin onboard equipment, essentially freezing its battery and propulsion systems.

See also this article from the University of Maryland.

Deep Impact brought us such wonderful images as this...

Tempel 1 smash!

NASA / JPL / UMD / color composite by Gordan Ugarkovic

Tempel 1 smash!
This image was captured by the Deep Impact flyby spacecraft's medium resolution imager on July 4, 2005, just seconds after the impactor spacecraft crashed into comet Tempel 1. Especially icy patches appear white or blue.

And this...

Comet Hartley 2

NASA / JPL / UMD / processed by Emily Lakdawalla

Comet Hartley 2
The Deep Impact flyby spacecraft performed several extended missions after observing the Deep Impact impactor hitting comet Tempel 1 in 2005. In November 2011, it encountered comet 103P/Hartley 2. Hartley 2 was unusually active for a comet, its jets easily visible to Deep Impact's cameras without substantial processing.

And this...

The Moon transiting Earth, as seen from Deep Impact (sequence)

NASA / JPL / UMD / color composite by Gordan Ugarkovic

The Moon transiting Earth, as seen from Deep Impact (sequence)
As part of its EPOXI mission, Deep Impact spent 24 hours over May 28 and 29, 2008, watching Earth from a distance of 50 million kilometers. During that time, the Moon transited Earth as seen from the spacecraft. The view was captured using Deep Impact's High Resolution Imager, which had a serious blurring problem; efforts to reduce the blurring have introduced some other artifacts, like the concentric rings on the Moon. These eight images were captured about half an hour apart, so the whole sequence spans about 3.5 hours.

And this.

M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy

NASA / JPL / UMD / processed by Emily Lakdawalla

M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy
On July 14, 2011, Deep Impact turned its Medium Resolution Imager toward M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy, and took 65 photos. This image is composed of six clear-filter exposures, stacked to reduce the noise from cosmic ray hits.

It was a wonderful, productive little mission that will be greatly missed, by me anyway. So long, friend.

Deep Impact "lookback" image of Tempel 1

NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD

Deep Impact "lookback" image of Tempel 1
This "lookback" image was captured by Deep Impact's high-resolution imager as it receded from comet Tempel 1 early today. The bright spot is not an incandescent flare; it represents dust in the ejecta curtain spraying out from the comet, which is backlit by the Sun.

Read more: Deep Impact, mission status

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Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla (2017, alternate)
Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
Read more articles by Emily Lakdawalla

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