Spacecraft has closest encounter ever with comet
(CNN) -- A spacecraft survived the closest encounter ever with a comet on Thursday, tracking it just 435 miles (700 kilometers) from the comet's nucleus.
Mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, broadcast live coverage of the event on NASA Television's Media Channel.
The agency's EPOXI spacecraft is expected to acquire data with two imagers and an infrared instrument of a comet named Hartley 2 as it traveled at speeds of more than 27,000 mph (43,450 kph).
Scientists are still working to determine if there was any damage to the spacecraft as the comet passed by. They hope to learn more about comets from images detailing the close approach.
"Those early images may not be the 'money shot,' but we on the science team will prize them just as well, as they will help us further understand the nature of comets," EPOXI principal investigator Mike A'Hearn, of the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a NASA statement.
The images are expected to depict the comet nucleus as little more than a point of light with a fuzzy coma, a gaseous cloud, surrounding it.
Five years after NASA launched an 800-pound projectile into a comet in an effort to study its contents, the same spacecraft that launched the missile tracked Hartley 2 on Thursday.
It is the first spacecraft to have visited two comets.