Here are 6 times that spacecraft smacked into other worlds — for science!

The humans behind the spaceships try to keep their robotic emissaries working as long as possible. Sometimes, it is necessary to destroy a spacecraft to get the maximum science out of a mission.

Scientists are always quick to accept observations on principle. Some of the spaceships have made dramatic exits. Scientists have never had a better view of the solar system.

Scott has worked with two spaceships that were destroyed in order to make sure that there was no chance of tykes getting a foothold in the outer solar system. Both exits produced their own science.

"I don't want to make it sound like scientists wanted to do this," said a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute. You're dealing lemons and trying to figure out how to make lemonade.

NASA's DART asteroid-impact mission is explained in pictures.

An artist's depiction of NASA's Pioneer-Venus 2 mission and its four descent probes. NASA/ Paul Hudson

Missions that go out in glory are bound to happen. The longest survivor of Venus' surface lasted just two hours, and every single spacecraft that entered the planet's atmosphere lasted at least one hour.

A probe is a sort of suicide mission, but it's designed that way. He worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter, which included a probe that descended through the planet's atmosphere, sending back 57 minutes of data into the clouds.

He emphasized that tossing in a full-fledged spaceship is different. I wouldn't advocate, 'Go do this for the measurement.'

The rest of the collection includes only the primary spacecraft.

Galileo was at Jupiter.

An artist's depiction of the Galileo spaceship. The image is from NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The Galileo craft ended up following the descent probe. The end of Galileo was determined by the discovery of water in the shell of Jupiter's moon. The find made Europa a hot topic for Astrobiologists and meant that no one wanted a dying spaceship covered in Earth germs to make it to the icy world.

Galileo ran out of fuel and had to be destroyed. The two-year mission was almost done when the craft plunged in, and scientists knew it was time for it to end. The mission was going to be shut off, so we took it in stride, according to a planetary scientist at NASA.

It's difficult to destroy a spaceship with the atmosphere of the largest planet in our solar system.

"You spiral in," he said. You have to make a left turn at a stoplight and head toward Jupiter, but you have to slow down and follow the laws of the planet, so there was this great opportunity to make a lot of measurements.

The scientists had to think about what they could do during the long goodbye. "Galileo had a lot of limits to what he could do," said the national security adviser. It didn't have the kind of instrumentation that you would want if you were going into Jupiter's atmosphere. The amount of data scientists could get back was reduced because the antenna hadn't deployed properly.

The 2003 dive gave scientists brand-new data about the massive planet's magnetic field and radiation belts.

The Deep Impact hit the comet.

NASA's Deep Impact mission flung an impactor into a comet to allow scientists to study the inside of a dirty snowball.

The comet was spotted by the spacecraft in time for it to spot two natural eruptions. The fireworks came on July 4, 2005, when the comet and impactor collided.

The resulting crater is about 150 meters across.

After flying past the comet's main body, Deep Impact flew past a second comet, 103P/Hartley 2, and took pictures of the dust-filled crater and icy debris from the explosion.

LCROSS hits the moon.

The LCROSS mission is depicted in an artist's depiction. The image was taken from the website of Northrop Grumman.

The LCROSS mission was launched with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and looked on as the rocket stage crashed into the moon in October 2009. The format of the mission was inspired by the desire to observe a tricky neighborhood of the moon and the Apollo program's history of using rocket boosters to create waves for instruments to detect.

A sample of interior rock from the moon's dark south pole would be brought into light by the LCROSS team. The LCROSS booster was small, but it entered on a path designed to maximize the collision, and it was accompanied by an entire separate spacecraft's worth of instruments to study the events in incredible detail for four minutes after impact.

I remember driving in for the final shift and looking up at the moon as I wondered if this would work. Anthony Colaprete, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California, was the principal investigator for the LCROSS mission.

It did work. LCROSS was designed to study the moon's south pole. The area hasn't seen sunlight in billions of years, so it's not possible to catch reflected light from the region. It is difficult to see below the surface of the moon. Both challenges were addressed with a relatively cheap mission.

Colaprete said that the LCROSS approach brought up a lot of material and sample a broad region that a drill could never sample without mobility. "That allowed us to bring a large sample into view where we could observe it."

The crater that the booster left behind was spotted by the science spacecraft.

Colaprete said that it was huge. The crater was 100 feet across and 16 feet deep. "That confirmed the size of the crater, and also it saw some of the ejected material coming down above the crater, so it was very valuable."

The impact site where a spent rocket stage slammed into the moon is shown in an image taken by the LCROSS shepherd spacecraft. The image is from NASA.

The team had just four minutes to gather data about the impact, and NASA's current lunar orbiter can't see the region. Colaprete said that the only image of the crater so far was a radar image.

Colaprete believes that an instrument that South Korea plans to put in the moon's atmosphere should be able to see the mess left behind. The main impact crater and the one left by the science spacecraft could be seen by the instrument. Colaprete said that it becomes an experiment.

Colaprete emphasizes that the LCROSS mission didn't necessarily target the moon as much as follow a specific path. He said that the moon got in our way. The moon got in our way.

Messenger hits Mercury.

An artist's depiction of a craft. The image is from NASA/JHU APL/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

After launching in 2004, NASA's Messenger mission arrived in Mercury in 2011. Messenger studied the planet and measured its magnetic field. Nancy Chabot, a planetary scientist who took part in the mission, told that it came to a halt at a cliff face.

Messenger's fate was always destined to be that. It was never going to leave the space station and it was going to hit the surface at some point, so it was on a one-way track.

Messenger's impact wasn't like many of the controlled impacts that have sought to approach a surface at as close to a 90-degree angle as possible. Messenger's descent is kind of barely skimming the surface until it doesn't. It will have a very flat kind of coming in, so that should make it an interesting shaped crater.

Since the Messenger team knows when the craft hit, no one has seen the site. The European and Japanese space agencies run a Mercury mission called BepiColombo. Scientists can't be sure if BepiColombo will be able to image Messenger's crater because of what they expect. If it can, the results will teach scientists more about the closest planet to the sun.

It hasn't produced any useful data yet, but it has the potential to, and I think that's exciting," he said. I suppose that could be a legacy of the Messenger mission.

The spaceship hit the planet,Saturn, in the year of savesay savesay.

An image of the rings of the planet, taken by the Cassini spacecraft, after it dived between the rings and planet about a week before the end of its mission. The image is from NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

NASA's next gas giant mission was launched before Galileo's end, but the team behind the Cassini mission knew their own craft might be in trouble at the end of its work. Scientists knew they didn't want to risk a crash by the non-sterilized craft on the moons of the ringed planet.

Linda Spilker, a planetary scientist at JPL and the last project scientist for the Cassini mission, told that they looked at a number of possibilities. We could have sent it back to Jupiter.

The temptation was clear when a team realized that the right flyby would send the spacecraft first into the gap between planet and rings, then inevitably down into the planet itself.

The Cassini mission ends with a dive into Saturn.

The scientists had a range of options, but this one was the one they chose to go for, because it was the only one they could do that would satisfy planetary protection and address new science questions.

During the last six months of the mission, scientists ran through a list of observations that the craft couldn't make earlier in the mission. There was a lot of new science that we could do, and that was a nice bonus. We had to satisfy planetary protection so we probably wouldn't have tried that.

The mission's finale allowed scientists to calculate the mass of the rings, to confirm a phenomenon called ring rain, and to gather some of the same types of data about charged particles as Galileo did.

Hayabusa2 hits an asteroid.

The DCAM3 camera on Hayabusa2 captured the ejection from the asteroid of an impactor. The photo was taken at 10:36 pm. On April 4, 2019. The University of Aizu, Kochi University, Aichi Toho University, and Tokyo University of Science are all pictured.

Hayabusa2 was the second asteroid-sampling mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid. The Small Carry-on Impactor, or SCI, was an experiment that was hidden aboard the craft.

The mission team planned to shoot a bullet at the asteroid and create an artificial crater. The mission was able to take a picture of the debris from the asteroid.

The mission team was surprised by the roughness of the area, as scientists had predicted. The impact wasn't what asteroid scientists expected.

The crater seems to have been a weak sort of material. It shows you why we need to do these experiments on real asteroids. Every experiment we do is a little bit surprising.

The impact of Hayabusa2 made a second type of science possible. After the impact, Hayabusa2 swung in for a final sampling maneuver inside the crater.

Once the cargo was delivered to Earth in December 2020, scientists could compare the exposed surface of the asteroid with its interior, which had been protected from space weathering for countless years.

DART will hit Didymos moonlet Dimorphos.

An artist's depiction of the crater left by the DART mission. The image is from the science office.

Next year, there will be another stunning departure. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test is going to be launched this fall. When DART arrives in the autumn of 2022, it will deploy a small cubesat and crash into a rock called Dimorphos.

The $330 million mission is NASA's first planetary defense mission and is designed to help scientists understand what would be necessary to divert an asteroid that appeared to be on a collision course with Earth. asteroids are fascinating scientific targets. The European Space Agency's Hera mission will study the crater later this decade after the dust has cleared, and DART doesn't carry any scientific instruments.

"That's one of the reasons that we're really excited about Hera as well, because you will be able to see that impact crater, which will tell you a lot about how this material is put together."

The science observations will feed into the mission's planetary defense priorities since different structures of asteroids may respond differently.

The models that the impact group runs predict different craters depending on how strong the material is and how the boulders are distributed on the surface.

Scientists have been surprised by what asteroids look like. The Hayabusa2 and NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid-sampling missions showed scientists more rugged worlds than they expected. Scientists wonder if an asteroid as small as Dimorphos would follow that trend.

Is it more of a coherent piece of material, or is it just a pile of rubble? Chabot said. DART will destroy itself to answer the questions.

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