Comet Nucleus Tour (CONTOUR): After being launched in August
2002, the CONTOUR spacecraft will study two diverse comets,
Encke and Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (SW3). Using
multiple Earth swingby maneuvers to reshape its trajectory, the
CONTOUR spacecraft will conduct flyby encounters with comets
Encke and SW3 in November 2003 and June 2006 respectively. Comet
Encke is thought to be an old comet that has
passed close to the sun so many times that it has lost nearly all of its ices.
It's turning into an inactive asteroidal object. Comet SW3 split into two
pieces in late 1995 and there is a possibility that the cleaved interior
structure of the comet will be revealed to the spacecraft cameras. If
a bright long-period comet is discovered in time, it may be possible to
re-target the spacecraft to encounter this recent celestial visitor.
CONTOUR Science Instruments:
Imager, IR spectrometer, impact dust mass spectrometer and a neutral gas and ion
spectrometer to determine the chemical composition of the comet's atmosphere.
The CONTOUR spacecraft will be built by the Johns Hopkins University's Applied
Physics Laboratory. The principal investigator is Dr. Joseph Veverka, Cornell
University, and the project management is located at the Applied Physics Laboratory.
Look here for additional information on the CONTOUR mission: