Rendezvous with Tempel 1

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell]  Late last night Nasa’s Stardust NExT spacecraft swept past Comet Tempel 1 on the final leg of its 12-year mission.  The BBC reports that the spacecraft was about 180 km (110 miles) from the 7.5 km wide comet nucleus during closest approach – the earlier linked Nasa report more accurately records that closest approach at 181 km (112 miles).

There was, of course, a much more intimate rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1 by the Deep Impact probe in 2005…  a probe which subsequently completed a successful fly-by of Comet Hartley 2 in 2010.

As noted previously, Stardust has already returned a sample from another comet, Wild 2, in which scientists believe they have identified the amino acid glycine.

The first of the expected 72 images of the comet have been received by Nasa and a press conference is expected later today.  NasaTV may have it online.

In the meantime here’s a short video on the Stardust NExT mission.

Embedded video from

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology

Update  The press conference is being re-broadcast

Live Video streaming by Ustream

Adds  I’ve updated the featured image and here’s one highlighting the crater caused by the Deep Impact probe – from the Nasa Stardust NExt website.