Posted: Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 9:15 AM ET (1315 GMT)
A spacecraft launched more than eight years ago to study a comet has lost communications with the Earth. The Deep Impact spacecraft last communicated with Earth on August 8, and recent efforts to restore communications with the spacecraft have failed, according to a project status report last week and an update from JPL on Tuesday. Project officials speculate that a software glitch is causing the spacecraft's computers to reboot continuously, keeping the spacecraft from maintaining its orientation. Such a situation could cause the spacecraft to lose power, if its solar array is not pointed at the sun and thus draining its batteries. NASA launched Deep Impact in January 2005 on a mission to fly by and fire an impactor at the comet Tempel 1, which it did in July of 2005. The spacecraft has been on an extended mission called EPOXI, performing observations of other comets as well as searches for extrasolar planets. NASA had hoped Deep Impact could observe comet ISON as it enters the inner solar system this fall.