NASA has formally ended its Deep Impact mission after a month of attempts to re-establish radio communications.
The robotic spacecraft was launched in January 2005 for an up-close encounter with Comet Tempel. The probe carried an 820-pound metal impactor that was released in the comet’s path. Tempel 1 plowed into the slug on July 4, 2005, generating a shower of particles from inside the comet’s body that were analyzed by the Deep Space mother ship and other observatories.
The spacecraft then went on to study other comets and also doubled as an extrasolar planet hunter.
NASA last heard from Deep Impact on Aug. 8. A software glitch is believed to have caused the spacecraft’s computer to lose its ability to properly position itself for radio communications with Earth.
“I’m saddened by its functional loss. But, I am very proud of the many contributions to our evolving understanding of comets that it has made possible,” lead scientist Michael A’Hearn, with the University of Maryland, said in a statement.
Image: Artist’s impression of NASA’s Deep Impact sending its impactor toward Comet Tempel 1 in 2005. Credit: NASA