NASA’s adventurous Deep Space 1 mission, which
successfully tested 12 high-risk, advanced space technologies
and captured the best images ever taken of a comet, will come
to an end Dec. 18, 2001.

“American taxpayers can truly be proud of Deep Space 1,” said
Dr. Colleen Hartman, Director of NASA’s Solar System
Exploration Division, Washington. “It was originally designed
to be an 11-month mission, but things were going so well that
we kept it going for a few more years to continue testing its
remarkable ion engine and, as a bonus, to get close-up images
of a comet. By the time we turn its engines off tomorrow, Deep
Space 1 will have earned an honored place in space exploration

Shortly after 3 p.m. EST Tuesday, engineers will send a final
command turning off the ion engine, which has used up 90
percent of its xenon fuel. After Earth’s final goodbye, the
spacecraft will remain in orbit around the Sun, operating on
its own. Its radio receiver will be left turned on, in case
future generations want to contact the spacecraft.

“Deep Space 1 is a true success story,” said Dr. Charles
Elachi, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),
Pasadena, Calif. “We are proud that future generations of
spacecraft will benefit from its accomplishments.”

Deep Space 1 leaves the technologies it flight-tested as
legacies for future missions, which would have been impossible
without its trailblazing technology tests. Enabling spacecraft
to travel faster and farther than ever before, Deep Space 1’s
ion engine was once a science fiction dream. Now this ion
engine has accumulated over 670 days of operating time.
Future Mars missions may use this technology to return samples
from the Red Planet.

Deep Space 1’s successful test of autonomous navigation
software was a major step in the path of artificial
intelligence for spacecraft. Using images of asteroids and
stars collected by the onboard camera, the spacecraft was able
to compute and correct its course without relying on human
controllers on Earth. NASA’s Deep Impact mission will use a
system based on autonomous navigation to reach the nucleus of
comet Tempel 1.

Within nine months after launch, Deep Space 1 had successfully
tested all 12 new technologies. As a bonus, near the end of
the primary mission, Deep Space 1 flew by asteroid Braille. In
late 1999, its primary mission complete, Deep Space 1’s star
tracker failed to operate. So in early 2000, engineers
successfully reconfigured the spacecraft from 185 million
miles (300 million kilometers) away to rescue it for a daring
extended mission to encounter comet Borrelly.

In September 2001, Deep Space 1 passed just 1,349 miles (2,171
kilometers) from the inner icy nucleus of comet Borrelly,
snapping the highest-resolution pictures ever of a comet. The
daring flyby yielded new data and movies of the comet’s
nucleus that will revolutionize the study of comets.

Launched on October 24, 1998, Deep Space 1 was designed and
built in just three years, the shortest development time for
any interplanetary spacecraft NASA has flown in the modern
age. It was the first mission in NASA’s New Millennium
program. In addition to its technical achievements, Deep Space
1 is an ambassador of Earthlings’ goodwill, carrying with it a
compact disc of children’s drawings and engineers’ thoughts.

“I’m not sad it’s ending, I’m happy it accomplished so much,”
said Dr. Marc Rayman, Deep Space 1 project manager at NASA’s
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “I think it
inspired many people who saw the mission as NASA and JPL at
our best — bold, exciting, resourceful and productive.”

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology,
Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Office of Space
Science, Washington. Spectrum Astro Inc., Gilbert, Ariz., was
JPL’s primary industrial partner in spacecraft development.

Additional information on Deep Space 1 is available at: