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Monday, 8 November 2010

NASA Mission Successfully Flies by Comet Hartley 2

The full version of this story with accompanying images is at:

PASADENA, CALIF. – NASA's EPOXI mission successfully flew by comet Hartley 2 at about 7
a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT) today, and the spacecraft has begun returning images. Hartley 2 is the fifth
comet nucleus visited by a spacecraft.

Scientists and mission controllers are currently viewing never-before-seen images of Hartley 2
appearing on their computer terminal screens.

"The mission team and scientists have worked hard for this day," said Tim Larson, EPOXI project
manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.  "It's good to see Hartley 2 up

Mission navigators are working to determine the spacecraft's closest approach distance. Preliminary
estimates place the spacecraft close to the planned-for 700 kilometers (435 miles). Eight minutes after
closest approach, at 6:59:47 a.m. PDT ( 9:59:47 a.m. EDT), the spacecraft's high-gain antenna was
pointed at Earth and began downlinking vital spacecraft health and other engineering data stored
aboard the spacecraft's onboard computer during the encounter. About 20 minutes later, the first
images of the encounter made the 37-million-kilometer (23-million-mile) trip from the spacecraft to
NASA's Deep Space Network antennas in Goldstone, Calif., appearing moments later on the
mission's computer screens.

"We are all holding our breath to see what discoveries await us in the observations near closest
approach," said EPOXI principal investigator Michael A'Hearn of the University of Maryland,
College Park.

A post-encounter news conference will be held at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT) in the von Karman
auditorium at JPL.  It will be carried live on NASA TV.  Downlink and schedule information is
online at .  The event will also be carried live on .

EPOXI is an extended mission that utilizes the already "in-flight" Deep Impact spacecraft to explore
distinct celestial targets of opportunity. The name EPOXI itself is a combination of the names for the
two extended mission components: the extrasolar planet observations, called Extrasolar Planet
Observations and Characterization (EPOCh), and the flyby of comet Hartley 2, called the Deep
Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI). The spacecraft has retained the name "Deep Impact."

JPL manages the EPOXI mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The
University of Maryland is home to the mission's principal investigator, Michael A'Hearn. Drake
Deming of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., is the science lead for the
mission's extrasolar planet observations. The spacecraft was built for NASA by Ball Aerospace &
Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

For more information about EPOXI visit and .

Good Clear Skies
Colin James Watling
Real Astronomer and head of the Comet section for LYRA (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth Regional Astronomers) also head of K.A.G (Kessingland Astronomy Group) and Navigator (Astrogator) of the Stars (Fieldwork)

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