Welcome to “On This Day … in Space!” where we peer back in our archives to find historic moments in spaceflight and astronomy. So enjoy a blast from the past with Space.com’s Hanneke Weitering to look back at what happened on this day in space!
On January 12, 2005, NASA launched its Deep Impact mission to crash into comet Tempel 1, also known as 9P/Tempel.
Two spacecraft were launched together for this mission: one was a flyby vehicle about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and the other was an impactor the size of a coffee table.
The mission would study the comet’s interior by smashing into its surface and taking pictures of the impact crater and all the dust and dirt it kicked into space. Deep Impact launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Delta II rocket and spent nearly six months chasing down the comet before the crash.