COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The surviving portion of the Deep Impact space probe that watched as its other half smashed into a comet on July 4 is being sent on a mission to study another comet.
NASA announced Tuesday that it has accepted a proposal by the University of Maryland, which developed and manages Deep Impact, to send the vehicle on an extended mission to intercept Comet Boethin.
Researchers hope information gathered from Boethin will help further the understanding of how comets formed and evolved and if they played a role in the emergence of life on Earth.
On Independence Day, an 820-pound copper probe separated from Deep Impact and collided with comet Tempel 1 while instruments on Deep Impact and Earth-based telescopes watched to see what the wreckage would reveal about the comet.
The new mission won't involve a collision. Instead, Deep Impact will pass Boethin in December 2008 so its instruments can examine the comet.
The spacecraft remains healthy, said Deep Impact astronomer Michael A'Hearn.