'Deep Impact' Spacecraft to Travel to Comet

Where the movie "Deep Impact" depicted a comet hurtling to Earth, a real-world namesake is set to go the opposite direction to eventually slam into a comet.

Deep Impact — as the spacecraft is called — will travel six months to reach a comet, named Comet Temple 1. It will then release an 825-pound impactor to search out and collide with the 5-mile long, 2-mile wide comet.

The minds at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation (search) have been working on the spacecraft since 1996.

"If you can get a few feet below the surface, you find out that the material down there is expected to be just the same as it was as it was formed 4.5 billion years ago," said Harold Reitsema, director of space sciences at Ball Aerospace.

The cloud of ice, dust and gas will be photographed and analyzed, helping scientists understand how the solar system formed.

So much debris will be thrown into the atmosphere from this comet being smashed in space, scientists likely will be able to see it happen with the naked eye on Earth, 80 million miles away.

By determining what comets are made of, scientists also hope to be able to change its path if one was discovered to target Earth.

The launch of Deep Impact spacecraft from Cape Canaveral (search), Fla., is set for Dec. 30. Its arrival at Comet Temple 1 is set for July 4.

Click on the box near the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Carol McKinley.