The NASA Comet Chaser Program was a two part long term scientific study of two well known comets that pass through the Solar System. NASA's chaser program built two spacecraft drones which would rendezvous with Halley's Comet and Comet Hale-Bopp and follow the two comets on their paths until their returns to the Earth.
Halley's Comet or Comet Halley ( /ˈhæli/ or /ˈheɪli/), officially designated 1P/Halley, is the best-known of the short-period comets and is visible from Earth every 75–76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and thus the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Other naked-eye comets may be brighter and more spectacular, but will appear only once in thousands of years. Halley's returns to the inner Solar System have been observed and recorded by astronomers since at least 240 BCE. Clear records of the comet's appearances were made by Chinese, Babylonian, and medieval European chroniclers, but were not recognized as reappearances of the same object at the time. The comet's periodicity was first determined in 1705 by English astronomer Edmond Halley, after whom it is now named. Halley's Comet last appeared in the inner Solar System in 1986 and will next appear in mid-2061.
During its 1986 apparition, Halley became the first comet to be observed in detail by spacecraft, providing the first observational data on the structure of a comet nucleus and the mechanism of coma and tail formation. These observations supported a number of longstanding hypotheses about comet construction, particularly Fred Whipple's "dirty snowball" model, which correctly predicted that Halley would be composed of a mixture of volatile ices – such as water, carbon dioxide and ammonia – and dust. The missions also provided data which substantially reformed and reconfigured these ideas; for instance it is now understood that Halley's surface is largely composed of dusty, non-volatile materials, and that only a small portion of it is icy. Halley's orbital period over the last 3 centuries has been between 75–76 years, though it has varied between 74–79 years since 240 BCE. Its orbit around the Sun is highly elliptical, with an orbital eccentricity of 0.967 (with 0 being a perfect circle and 1 being a parabolic trajectory). The perihelion, the point in the comet's orbit when it is nearest the Sun, is just 0.6 AU (between the orbits of Mercury and Venus), while its aphelion, or farthest distance from the Sun, is 35 AU (roughly the distance of Pluto).
The Halley Chaser was deployed by the EVSS Mitchell Nebula-class Destroyer starship in 2029 which would rendezvous with Halley's Comet and lock into its gravitation pull and follow the comet until its return to Earth in 2061. During the period of travel, the Halley Chaser was to monitor and study Halley's Comet, its orbital paths and trajectory, its make up and other features. Unlike the Hale-Bopp Chaser, the Halley Chaser did not carry a time capsule.
Comet Hale–Bopp (formally designated C/1995 O1) was the most widely observed comet of the 20th century and one of the brightest seen for many decades. It was visible to the naked eye for a record 18 months, twice as long as the previous record holder, the Great Comet of 1811. Hale–Bopp was discovered on July 23, 1995, at a great distance from the Sun, raising expectations that the comet would brighten considerably by the time it passed close to Earth. Hale–Bopp became visible to the naked eye in May 1996, and although its rate of brightening slowed considerably during the latter half of that year, scientists were still cautiously optimistic that it would become very bright. It was too closely aligned with the Sun to be observable during December 1996, but when it reappeared in January 1997 it was already bright enough to be seen by anyone who looked for it, even from large cities with light-polluted skies. The comet became a spectacular sight in early 1997.
In September of 2030, Union of Everett Kuiper Belt research vessels launched the Hale-Bopp Chaser, which would target and rendezvous with Hale-Bopp in 2033. At a distance from the Sun of over 60 AU, Hale-Bopp Chaser locked into a gravity hold with Comet Hale-Bopp. The Hale-Bopp Chaser contains a large time capsule with over 100 terabytes of data. Comet Hale-Bopp, along with the Chaser, are expected to return to Earth in 4385 AD.
Hale-Bopp Time Capsule
The Hale-Bopp time capsule contains nearly 100 terabytes of hard drive data. Secured inside of a electro-magnetic shielded containment unit, protecting the data from solar activity, the data storage drives contain a variety of human cultural information, video and audio recordings, photos, documents, literature and historical data. The capsule also holds an estimated terabyte of technological information, including human DNA and genetics data, biological and chemical records, the Periodic Table of Elements, nuclear and atomic technology, medical records, among others.
Time Capsule Data
- Human DNA Database
- Biology Listing of Known Mammals
- Biology Listing of Known Invertebrates & Fish
- Biology Listing of Known Flying Animals & Birds
- Biology Listing of Known Insects & Arachnids
- Biology Listing of Known Plants, Fungi
- Biology Listing of Known Bacteria, Virus, Parasites, Prions
- Listing of Major Disease Cures & Medical Treatments
- Swine Flu
- Avian Flu
- Black Death Plague
- Flesh-Eating Bacteria
- Hanta Virus
- Listing of Major Disease Cures & Medical Treatments
- Periodic Table of Elements
- Common Uses of Earth Elements & Metals
- Atomic Energy
- Nuclear Energy
- Fusion Energy
- Solar Energy
- Effects of Metals on Living Beings
- Chemical Hazards/Radioactive Metals
- Earth's Atmosphere
- Weather & Climate
- Carbon Based Life
- Technological Achievements
- Solar Events (Comets, Meteor Impacts, Sun Flares, Auroras, Solar Storms)
- Ancient Cultures
- Pre-Human Civilization
- Pre-Historic Era
- Human Anatomy
- Political Boundaries of 2030
- Technological Advancement
- Human & Civil Rights
- Space Exploration
- The Solar System
- Asteroid Belt
- Kuiper Belt
- Space Race (1950's)
- Moon Landing
- Gliese 581 System
- Galactic Position of Solar System
- Interstellar Transit
- Off-World Colonization
- Star Constellations