As bad as this sounds, it’s actually a very impressive victory. Being able to launch a probe and actually hit a small moving target like a comet is really very difficult. Deep Impact was that probe, and amazing pictures were returned while I watched it all live (another amazing feat, really).
The 820-pound impactor spacecraft, programmed to place itself directly in the comet’s path, collided with Tempel 1 at 1:52 a.m. EDT (10:52 p.m. PDT Sunday), releasing the energy equivalent of 4.5 tons of TNT as it vaporized in a sudden, spectacular flash.
Looking on 5,250 miles away, the Deep Impact mothership that ferried the impactor to Tempel 1 trained two telescopes and an infrared spectrometer on the impact site, studying the subsurface ices blown into space by the collision.
The crater that almost certainly resulted from the impact was not immediately visible in an obscuring cloud of debris that spread outward into deep space like some ghostly fog.
Soon the mother ship which launched the probe will close in on the comet to have a look in the crater formed during the impact.