Deep Impact mission was accomplished this night as a space probe hit its comet target early Monday. The NASA-directed crash has been already acknowledged as “brilliant” and “Hollywood-style.” But to some people the mission seems to be harmful to the natural balance of the Universe.
It marked the first time a spacecraft had touched the surface of a comet, and ignited a dazzling fireworks display in space, reports AP.
The successful strike 83 million miles (134 million kilometers) away from Earth occurred just before 0600 GMT, according to Deep Impact mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which is managing the US$333 million (Ђ275 million) mission.
Scientists at mission control erupted in applause and hugged each other as news of the impact spread, reports the AP.
It was a milestone for the U.S. space agency, which hopes the experiment will answer basic questions about the origins of the solar system.
The cosmic smash-up did not significantly alter the comet's orbit around the sun and NASA said the experiment does not pose any danger to Earth.
An image by the mothership showed a bright spot in the lower section of the comet where the collision occurred that hurled a cloud of debris into space. When the dust settles, scientists hope to peek inside the comet's frozen core - a composite of ice and rock left over from the early solar system.
NASA strikes comet - photo gallery
"We hit it just exactly where we wanted to," co-investigator Don Yeomans said.
"It went like clockwork. Very good, we’re very excited.” Deep Impact project manager Rick Grammier, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), was quoted by Space.com as saying. “The systems were all nominal and we were within half a kilometer of our target point before release and the release went very well."
Scientists had compared the suicide journey to standing in the middle of the road and being hit by a semi-truck roaring at 23,000 mph (37,000 kph). They expect the crater will be anywhere from the size of a large house to a football stadium and between two and 14 stories deep.
"As of now, I think we have a completely different understanding of our solar system," said laboratory director Charles Elachi, cited by Reuters. "Its success exceeded our expectations."
Researchers hope NASA’s Deep Impact mission will not just succeed in ramming a comet, but will punch through Tempel 1’s surface and reveal material that has not been seen since the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
"The first look at the data indicates that things couldn’t have gone better," Monte Henderson, program manager for Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., the builders of NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft, told Space.com via e-mail.
Henderson described the outbursts as fog-like, dispersing over the surface of the comet, not an explosive plume that could adversely affect the Impactor’s ability to pinpoint the brightest spot on the comet’s surface. The team is not concerned that the outburst will interfere with the impact. The last outburst is expected to occur four hours prior to the collision said Henderson, and because of the outbursts diffuse orientation, it disperses after about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, Russian astrologer Marina Bai sues NASA to compensate her moral damage in the sum of over 310 million USD. Before the start she had demanded that NASA's project to bomb Tempel 1 comet be suspended. Marina Bai believes that the plan of NASA is an attempt against the natural life in space, which might break the natural balance of the Universe. Bai filed a lawsuit against NASA seeking the protection of her moral and life values. The Russian scientist says that the above-mentioned comet is rather valuable for her as personal memory: the comet gave a start to the relationship of the astrologer's grandparents. Marina Bai clarified that when her grandfather met her grandmother, he showed her the comet in the sky, and it became the romantic start of their long family life.