CONTOUR ( Comet Nucleus Tour ) was the name of a U.S. space probe, which was launched in 2002. They crashed shortly after takeoff in Earth orbit and broke into several parts. The cause of the crash could not be determined properly.


The order of a ton of heavy probe CONTOUR was the close flyby of the comet Encke ( planned for 2003), Schwassmann - guard 3 (scheduled for 2006) and 6P / d'Arrest (planned for 2008). Interesting things about the CONTOUR mission concept was the flexibility: Appeared in range of the probe in the course of their mission, an unknown comet, like Hale -Bopp in 1997, it would have been possible CONTOUR also align it. The probe would the Earth's gravity field used several times after its launch, to get into the swing-by maneuvers enough " momentum " for their flight to the comet.

The mission CONTOUR was planned as part of the Discovery program of NASA and carried out. Therefore, the concept also followed the principle faster, cheaper, better.

CONTOUR was the first total loss of a spacecraft in the 21st century.


CONTOUR was launched on July 3, 2002 on a Delta II 7425 rocket and was placed in a highly elliptical orbit. As the spacecraft at perigee their own star - 30BP engine lighted to leave the Earth's orbit, the spacecraft broke up on August 15, 2002 in three parts. The study of the NASA revealed as the most likely cause overheating of the probe by the exhaust gases of the mounted within the spacecraft solid drive. Other possible causes also an explosion of the star - 30BP - engine or a collision with a meteorite or space debris were considered.