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Last Updated: Monday July 04 2005 14:19 GMT

Nasa success as probe hits comet

An image sent by the Deep Impact spacecraft
An image sent by the Deep Impact spacecraft

Nasa scientists are celebrating after a probe they launched at a comet 83 million miles away crashed into it.

That's what Nasa was hoping would happen when they launched the mission 173 days ago in a bid to find out more about the Tempel 1 comet.

The probe was carried there by another spacecraft called Deep Impact which has been sending back data on the crash.

It sent back pictures of the crash and should analyse some of the dust sent up by the collision.

"We hit it just exactly where we wanted to," said Dr Don Yeomans, a Nasa scientist.

"The impact was bigger than I expected, and bigger than most of us expected. We've got all the data we could possibly ask for."

Comets

Comets have been around since the universe started and scientists hope this mission will help them learn more about how the solar system started.

It's going to take a couple of days for all the information to arrive, and then a few months to work out what it all means.

Professor Iwan Williams from the University of London said: "It was like mosquito hitting a 747 aeroplane. What we've found is that the mosquito didn't splat on the surface, it's actually gone through the windscreen."

The probe was around the size of a washing machine and it has taken years to plan the mission, as the comet travels through space at thousands of miles an hour.