Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, July 04, 2005

  Nubile Projectile vs The Penetrator

"Right now we're minus one spacecraft," said Rick Grammier, Deep Impackt project manager at JPL. "It's been totally vaporized... as planned."

At last our knowledge of comets is more than skin deep. In a split seconds the Penetrator blasted off the Nubile Projectile's clothes, revealing what space weathering had obscured. She ain't pretty (but a billion years will do that to a gal), but now we know a bit more about her history than we could learn by passively watching a telescope... I wonder about the little jet on the right of the first picture - secondary explosion or a previously existing jet? A photographic artifact? Still the point to doing more! impactor based missions is that, as scientists put it: To find out more all we have to do is exert the same amount of force as over 6700 horses could exert over the course of an hour.

For the last decade it's been "fear the stranger, hate the stranger" - now some think we're at "kill the stranger" stage - but to me, this little bump in the sky at 23000 mph was filled with love. No-one was hurt in this smashup that didn't know what they were getting into...

Of course, the ultimate collision didn't quite live up to artistic expectations, but it did turn out that Tempel 1 was a great deal more firm than previously believed. If it weren't for their long periods, comets may turn out to be a great place for men to live.

Some wonder if Deep Impact has
anti-ballistic missile applications
? Of course it does. Clementine-2 - the first designed impactor mission - was canceled in '93 because of it's association with SDI.
The problem is: hitting objects at long distances is a useful skill to have - whether you're a baseball player, or a nation worried about national defense, or a frustrated engineer that wants to know - quickly and cheaply - just what M and S class asteroids are made of. Still my favorite twinned body is Toutatis, shown here, passing by only a few lunar distances away last september.

I'm not the only one reaching for sexual analogies - the new scotsman calls this The big prang theory...

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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