Lost in space: Nasa declares end to Deep Impact comet mission after month's radio silence

 

Two weeks of deafening radio silence from a spacecraft have led Nasa to conclude their "old friend" the Deep Impact vessel will explore no more.

Engineers have tried unsuccessfully to regain contact with the vessel for a month, but finally admitted defeat and announced the end of the mission.

Scientist Jessica Sunshine of the University of Maryland said she was "saddened at the loss."

Mike A' Hearn, Deep Impact principal investigator said the spacecraft had revolutionised their understanding of comets and their activity.

“Deep Impact has been fantastic, long-lasting spacecraft that has produced far more data than we had planned", he told Universe Today.

Deep Impact put on a celestial fireworks display 4 July, 2005, when it fired a projectile into comet Tempel 1. The high-speed impact carved a crater and hurled a plume of debris into space, allowing scientists to examine the pieces using telescopes.

Within six months it's mission was complete, but the science team "kept finding interesting things to do" with it, according to Tim Larson, project manager of Deep Impact at JPL

Afterward, Deep Impact journeyed was dispatched to journey towards comet Hartley 2, flying through a blizzard of ice particles and escaping unharmed. It later passed by the distant comet Garradd and also observed stars in search of Earth-sized planets outside the solar system.

Before losing contact in August, it was studying another comet named Ison, that is expected to shine as bright as the moon when it moves closer to the Earth in November this year

The cause of the failure was unknown, but engineers suspect the spacecraft lost control, causing its antenna and solar panels to point in the wrong direction. Without power flowing to its onboard computer, Deep Impact's battery and propulsion systems may have frozen, causing it to spin out of control through the solar system.

Scientists were disappointed at the timing of the silence that cut short their observations of comet Ison and future plans.

Deep Impact's comet adventures have changed scientists' views of comets, irregular bodies of ice and dust that orbit the sun and are leftovers from the formation of the solar system. Once thought to be similar, scientists said comets are more varied than initially realized. Comet Tempel 1, for example, turned out to be fluffier than scientists imagined.

The $372 million (£232 million) Deep Impact mission was managed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With communication lost, the spacecraft will continue traveling around the sun.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on