NASA flies recycled spacecraft by Earth and comet
The Expoxi spacecraft, originally built for another mission, will fly by the Earth on its way to the comet Hartley 2.
Thu, Jun 10 2010 at 12:51 PM
RECYCLING: NASA takes a composite picture of a comet. (Photo: NASA)
NASA has taken a page from the environmentalist handbook by taking out the recycling. Space.com reports that the Expoxi aircraft, which has already bombed one comet, is now heading for another one. To get the spacecraft to its second destination, NASA will perform a tricky space maneuver on Expoxi as it flies past the Earth on June 27 to rendezvous with the Harley 2 comet in November.
Expoxi was originally built for NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which released an impactor probe into the comet Tempel 1 in 2005. The goal was to get an idea of the composition of the comet. This time, Expoxi will observe Hartley 2 as it speeds through space. Tim Larson is the project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. As he told Space.com, "While it was a small burn, it was a big step in getting us to Hartley 2. Humanity's fifth close-up view of a comet is less than five months away."
NASA brought Expoxi near the Earth to change the spacecraft's velocity by 0.1 meters per second. Apparently, that was all that was needed to give the spacecraft the necessary push to Hartley 2. The Expoxi got its name from its two science explorations — the Deep Impact Extended Investigations (DIXI) and the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterization (EPOCh).
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