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Nasa Designing Spacecraft To Crash Into Comet

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Boulder Scientists Designing Spacecraft To Crash Into Comet

POSTED: 8:54 a.m. MDT August 11, 2003

BOULDER, Colo. -- Engineers at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. are getting ready to test equipment they have built to propel a spacecraft into a comet.

The team hopes the craft will be able to hit Comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005 in a spot 80 million miles from earth. The craft will be about 2 feet high and 4 feet wide with a large copper nose that will be able to smash into the comet, traveling at 22,000 mph, creating a crater.

Another spacecraft will record the image of the collision using two high-powered telescopes.

The idea of the $300 million project sponsored by NASA is to see what kinds of chemicals are released from the comet after the impact and what they reveal about the origins of the universe. Infrared imaging technology will help scientists to identify which chemicals are in the debris.

"They're trying to hit a black thing against a black background," said company spokeswoman Emilia Reed. "The math is pretty important."

The craft's nose must be positioned so that the comet runs into it from behind, creating the crater. The second spacecraft must go through several complicated maneuvers so it can catch the collision.

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