NASA today provided a brief update about the Deep Impact spacecraft, which the agency has lost contact with. NASA scientists and engineers are still attempting to contact the probe, but have had no success.
Just over one month ago, on August 8, NASA lost contact with the Deep Impact spacecraft. The agency now believes that the probe’s software has glitched, and that its computers are currently rebooting themselves over and over.
Deep Impact was launched in early 2005 on a mission to study comets. The spacecraft has traveled nearly 4.7 billion miles since that time. Deep Impact arrived at the comet Tempel 1 during the summer following its launch, successfully launching an probe that hit the comet. In the years since, the spacecraft has helped researchers observe the Hartley 2, C/2009 P1, and ISON comets.
With Deep Impact’s computers now unavailable, NASA believes the spacecraft has no way to control its thrusters. Unable to control the probe’s attitude, researchers cannot be sure of the position of the craft’s antennas – making the task of contacting it that much harder. The lack of control also means the spacecraft’s solar array may not be pointed toward the sun, raising concerns about how much power Deep Impact still has.
(Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)