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Deep Impact spacecraft flies past Earth
Posted: Wed, Jan 2, 2008, 6:01 AM ET (1101 GMT)
Deep Impact spacecraft illustration (NASA/JPL) NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft flew past Earth on New Year's Eve, a maneuver that puts the spacecraft on course for an extended mission to another comet. The three-year-old spacecraft flew past Earth on Monday, with its closest approach approximately 16,000 kilometers above Australia. The flyby is the first of three planned through 2009 to put the spacecraft on course to fly past the comet Hartley 2 in October 2010. Hartley 2 was selected just last month after astronomers could not locate another comet, Boethin, that had been the first choice for the extended mission. During portions of the cruise phase of the extended mission, called EPOXI, the spacecraft will observe a number of stars known to have extrasolar planets. Deep Impact completed its primary mission in 2005 when it flew past the comet Tempel 2, firing a probe that impacted with the comet's nucleus.
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