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NASA gives two spacecraft new missions
Posted: Wed, Jul 4, 2007, 6:26 PM ET (2226 GMT)
Deep Impact spacecraft illustration (NASA/JPL) NASA announced late Tuesday that it has given new missions to a pair of spacecraft already in space that have completed their original missions. The Deep Impact mothership, which flew past comet Tempel 1 two years ago, observing the impact of a probe on the comet's nucleus, will be retargeted to fly past comet Boethin in December 2008. En route to the comet the spacecraft will also be used to observe several bright nearby stars known to have exoplanets; the observations will look for transits as the exoplanets pass in front of the stars, allowing astronomers to better characterize those worlds. The Stardust spacecraft, which remained in space after returning a probe containing cometary dust in January 2006, will fly past Tempel 1 in February 2011, looking for changes in the comet's nucleus since the Deep Impact flyby in 2005. NASA officials said that by utilizing existing spacecraft, the two new missions can be carried out for about 15 percent the cost of a new mission.
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