NASA Spacecraft Set to Rendezvous With Comet

It'll be within 125 miles of Manhattan-sized rock
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2011 2:27 PM CST
Updated Feb 14, 2011 8:36 AM CST
This 2005 file rendering by artist Pat Rawlings, released by NASA, shows the Deep Impact spacecraft's planned encounter with comet Tempel 1.   (AP Photo/NASA, Pat Rawlings, File)

(Newser) – A NASA spacecraft is about to make a massive comet its valentine. If all goes as planned, the Stardust spacecraft will get up close and personal today with a comet half the size of Manhattan that’s hurtling through space at 24,000 miles per hour, the Washington Post reports. The spacecraft will be a scant 125 miles from the rock, called Tempel 1—which is pretty impressive, given that the rendezvous will be 210 million miles from Earth.

From there, the ship will snap photos of Tempel 1, giving NASA a close look at its surface—and maybe get a look at the crater its Deep Impact probe shot into the comet in 2005. “I’m going to be sleepless on Valentine’s Day and sending a lot of love to this comet,” says the mission’s co-investigator.

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