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NASA Spacecraft on Final Approach Toward Comet

The EPOXI mission spacecraft has refined its path toward a Nov. 4 flyby of comet Hartley 2, successfully performing its final manoeuvre today at 8 a.m. PDT (11 a.m. EDT). The spacecraft burned its engines for 6.8 seconds, changing the spacecraft's velocity by 1.4 metres per second.
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NASA to Host Live Events for November 4 Comet Encounter

NASA will hold a series of news and educational events about the EPOXI mission's close encounter with comet Hartley 2, scheduled to occur at approximately 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT) on Thursday, Nov. 4. The spacecraft will provide the most extensive observations of a comet in history.
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Five Things About NASA's EPOXI Mission

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Recent observations of comet Hartley 2 have scientists scratching their heads, while they anticipate a flyby of the small, icy world on Nov. 4.
A phenomenon was recorded by imagers aboard NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft from Sept. 9 to 17 during pre-planned scientific observations of the comet. These observations, when coupled with expected images during the closest encounter with Hartley 2 on Nov. 4, will become the most detailed look yet at a comet's activity during its pass through the inner-solar system.

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NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI spacecraft is hurtling toward Comet Hartley 2 for a breathtaking 435-mile flyby on Nov. 4th. Mission scientists say all systems are go for a close encounter with one of the smallest yet most active comets they've seen.
Cometary orbits tend to be highly elongated; they travel far from the sun and then swing much closer. At encounter time, Hartley 2 will be nearing the sun and warming up after its cold, deep space sojourn. The ices in its nucleus will be vaporizing furiously - spitting dust and spouting gaseous jets.

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NASA's EPOXI mission is three weeks away from its flyby of comet Hartley 2. Students and educators can watch live web coverage of the encounter on Thurs., Nov. 4 from 6:30 a.m. to approximately 8 a.m. Pacific Time (9:30 to 11 a.m. Eastern time). They can also send questions in advance about the comet encounter to jplspaceeducation@gmail.com . Due to program constraints, not all questions will be answered.
This flyby will be only the fifth time in history that a comet has been imaged close-up. At point of closest approach, the spacecraft will be about 700 kilometres from the comet. EPOXI is an extended mission that uses the already "in-flight" Deep Impact spacecraft, which made its own cosmic fame when it released a small impactor into the path of comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005.

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Fans of space exploration are familiar with the term T-minus, which NASA uses as a countdown to a rocket launch. But what of those noteworthy mission events where you already have a spacecraft in space, as with the upcoming flyby of a comet?

"We use 'E-minus' to help with our mission planning. The 'E' stands for encounter, and that is exactly what is going to happen one month from today, when our spacecraft has a close encounter with comet Hartley 2" - Tim Larson, EPOXI mission project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

The EPOXI mission's Nov. 4 encounter with Hartley 2 will be only the fifth time in history that a comet has been imaged close-up. At point of closest approach, the spacecraft will be about 700 kilometres from the comet.

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Mission Status Report

This past weekend, our spacecraft flew past Earth. Closest approach was at approximately 22:04 UTC on 27 Jun at a geocentric distance of 0.000246 AU or approximately 36,860 km. The purpose of this flyby was to retarget the spacecraft onto its final trajectory to comet 103P/Hartley 2. Data are expected beginning later today that will be analysed to determine how accurately we achieved our goal but our general experience is that nearly all the manoeuvres with this spacecraft, both simple thruster manoeuvres in deep space and gravity assists, have all gone with high precision. The new orbit, which will change slightly but not much due to subsequent manoeuvres to optimise the flyby, has an orbital period of about 14 months, with perihelia near Earth's orbit. The details of the flyby of comet Hartley 2 will be set up in subsequent manoeuvres, but the nominal distance of closest approach is 700 km at several minutes before 14:00 UTC on 4 November.
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5th Anniversary of the Deep Impact, Comet Tempel 1 Impact/Flyby, (2005)

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'Hitchhiker' EPOXI: Next Stop, Comet Hartley 2

NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI spacecraft flew past Earth Sunday (June 27) at approximately 3:03 p.m. Pacific time (6:03 p.m. Eastern time), as planned. The spacecraft is now on its way to its appointment with comet Hartley 2 this fall. The members of the EPOXI team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., are currently working with data returned from the flyby to refine the spacecraft trajectory estimates.
EPOXI is an extended mission of the Deep Impact spacecraft. Its name is derived from its two tasked science investigations -- the Extrasolar Planet Observation and Characterisation (EPOCh) and the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI). On Nov. 4, 2010, the mission will fly by Hartley 2 using all three of the spacecraft's instruments (two telescopes with digital imagers and an infrared spectrometer).

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