Dr Marc D. Rayman mission manager for Deep Space 1 told SpaceDaily this evening, "We did it!".
"We have returned some black and white images, some infrared spectra, and some ion and electron data. The entire encounter was sequenced, although we did have to do some critical commanding this morning. It -- and everything else for that matter -- went perfectly!"
Rayman explained that the data we've seen so far was returned on the 70-meter DSN station in Canberra, Australia, and we are now returning data via a 34-meter station in Madrid.
"I'm too tired right now to describe more than that," said Rayman after an exhausting day in mission control at JPL's Pasadena facility.
Deep Space 1 Mission Status
"The images and other data we collected from comet Borrelly so far will help scientists learn a great deal about these intriguing members of the solar system family," said Dr. Marc Rayman, project manager of Deep Space 1 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's very exciting to be among the first humans to glimpse the secrets that this comet has held since before the planets were formed."
Signals confirming the successful encounter were received on Earth at 3:43 p.m. PDT, and data containing the first clues to the composition of the comet came a few hours after the close brush with the comet.
Mission managers confirmed that the spacecraft was able to use all four of its instruments at Borrelly. Data will be returned over the next few days as the spacecraft sends to Earth black-and-white pictures, infrared spectrometer measurements, ion and electron data, and measurements of the magnetic field and plasma waves around the comet. Pictures of the comet will be released after they are all sent to Earth in the next few days.
Several hours before the encounter, the ion and electron monitors began observing the comet's environment. The action increased about an hour and a half before the closest approach, when for two minutes the infrared spectrometer collected data that will help scientists understand the overall composition of the surface of the comet's nucleus.
Deep Space 1 began taking its black-and-white images of the comet 32 minutes before the spacecraft's closest pass to the comet, and the best picture of comet Borrelly was taken just a few minutes before closest approach, as the team had planned.
Two minutes before the spacecraft whizzed by the comet, its camera was turned away so that the ion and electron monitors could make a careful examination of the comet's inner coma the cloud of dust and gas that envelops the comet.
Scientists on Deep Space 1 hope to find out the nature of the comet's surface, measure and identify the gases coming from the comet, and measure the interaction of solar wind with the comet.
Deep Space 1 completed its primary mission testing ion propulsion and 11 other advanced, high-risk technologies in September 1999. NASA extended the mission, taking advantage of the ion propulsion and other systems to undertake this chancy but exciting encounter with the comet.
Deep Space 1
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Searching Out One Risky Encounter In Deep Space
Pasadena - Sept. 21, 2001
NASA's Deep Space 1 probe is set to fly into the coma of Comet Borrelly on Saturday at 3:30pm PDT - (2230 Universal time). The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Dr. Marc Rayman, project manager of the mission, is cautious about the encounter. "I'm very excited… [But] any spacecraft can be given an assignment that simply exceeds its capabilities. And this spacecraft is going to be battered by high-velocity bullets," Rayman says.
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