Friday, January 21, 2005

Deep Impact

Tonight at dinner, a friend asked me about a comet.

There has been a little talk about comets lately,

And, we are assured that chances of a comet hitting the earth are low.

But, chances of us hitting a comet have gone way up as of January 12.

This story is from the AP:

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A spacecraft named Deep Impact will fire a 1,100-pound copper bullet at the nucleus of a comet, blasting out a crater the size of a football field and as deep as a seven-story building.

The radical $240 million mission, approved Wednesday by NASA administrators, may sound more like fiction than science, but its primary purpose will be to study the makeup of comets.

It's a coincidence that the project has the same name as last summer's disaster movie ``Deep Impact,'' which was about a comet smacking Earth, mission planners said Thursday.

"The name was selected prior to the movie,'' said James Graf, Deep Impact's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It wasn't inspired by it. "

Deep Impact is scheduled to be launched in January 2004 and will arrive at comet Tempel 1 on July 4, 2005. The projectile will separate from the spacecraft and hit the comet at 22,300 mph.

Shortly after impact, the craft will come within 300 miles of the comet surface and send back data and pictures of the debris and crater. It will eventually zoom off into space.

Comets are believed to be remnants from the early days of the solar system, and several missions are planned to observe them close-up. Deep Impact's projectile, however, will be the first to crash into one.

Deep Impact will allow scientists to study the inside of a comet by observing the debris ejected from the crater.

"It can give us an understanding of what the solar system looked like during its formation, and what contributions comets may have made to our life here on Earth,'' Graf said.

The impact should be visible from Earth - 83 million miles away - with the aid of a telescope.

The mission poses no threat to Earth, Graf said. The impact crater will be small compared with the overall size of the comet's nucleus.

NASA's approval of Deep Impact was made less than two weeks after the space agency pulled the plug on another mission to the same comet. Space Technology 4/Champollion would have landed on Tempel 1 and drilled beneath the surface.

NASA administrators decided to favor Deep Impact because it was focused solely on science and fit into existing budget plans, said Doug Isbell, a NASA spokesman in Washington, D.C.

As you might imagine, this has caused some concern in those circles where deep concerns abound.

Some astronomers and scientists have incorrectly assumed that comets are made of matter rather than antimatter. Their misinterpretation has lead NASA's plan to collide a 350 kilogram spacecraft into the Comet Tempel 1. The spacecraft's impact with the comet will result in a 15,000 Megatons nuclear explosion fracturing the 125 billion metric ton comet into millions of fragments. The antimatter fragments will subsequently collide with earth producing nuclear explosions that will completely destroy life on earth as we know it.

Life on Earth as we know it?

Deep Impact Day is July 4th of this year.

We may have some real fireworks to watch.

Could have an effect on the Earthfamily.



3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Sons of the Pioneers did a song in 1950 about the Atom Bomb destroying the planet and life as we know it.

7:05 AM  
Blogger OZ said...

I must admit, this experiment looks a lot more like target practice than science.

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you saying that this comet is actually headed for earth?

12:36 PM  

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