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ESA Selects Targets for Asteroid Deflection Test 284

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the these-aren't-your-grandfather's-windmills dept.
Vandil X writes "The European Space Agency has announced that it has selected two candidate asteroid targets for a planned mission to impact an asteroid in an attempt to deflect the asteroid off course by a measurable amount. The mission, dubbed "Don Quijote," will send two spacecraft to their final choice asteroid. One craft will impact the asteroid while the other will observe the asteroid before and after the collision. The mission craft and target selection are expected to be finalized sometime in 2007."
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ESA Selects Targets for Asteroid Deflection Test

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  • Sweet mercy (Score:5, Funny)

    by casio282 (468834) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:07PM (#13655535) Homepage
    I hope Bruce Willis in onboard.
  • NO DADDY NO (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Can't we just drill 20 miles into it and blow the fucker up with a nuke?
    • Explosions don't work so hot in a vacuum.
      • Re:NO DADDY NO (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Frank T. Lofaro Jr. (142215) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @12:28AM (#13656127) Homepage
        Umm, you're kidding, right?

        Nuclear bombs will work fine in a vacuum. They don't need oxygen or anything else to support combustion, because they don't use combustion - they use a NUCLEAR (imagine that!) reaction, not a chemical one. The high explosive used to fire the nuke I don't believe needs O2 either, and if it did, that would be an easy problem to deal with.

        Yeah, no one will hear the explosion, but that isn't a problem.

        Now why do special effects people make explosions make noise in a vacuum in sci-fi movies, shows, etc.

        We KNOW better than that, well most of us anyway.
        • Nuclear bombs will work fine in a vacuum.

          But the damage will be greatly reduced, won't it? You'll still have all the hard radiation, EMP, and the force of whatever mass in the weapon isn't converted to energy, obviously. But I would think that the lack of an atmosphere would prevent most of the heat damage (poor conductivity), and eliminate most of the shockwave.

          In the footage I've seen of nuclear tests, it looks like most of the physical damage comes from the high-speed shockwave travelling through the air
          • Re:NO DADDY NO (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Matt_R (23461)
            So since they drilled down into the rock, the medium density should be really high, yeah?

            Sure nukes in open space is questionable, but the AC was talking about placing the nuke within the asteroid - Armageddon style.
            • Re:NO DADDY NO (Score:3, Interesting)

              Maybe, maybe not. That will only work if the entire body is hard and dense throughout. If any of the material is loose or porous, you'll just compress it a bit.

              Don't believe what you see in movies.

        • Re:NO DADDY NO (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 10Ghz (453478)

          Now why do special effects people make explosions make noise in a vacuum in sci-fi movies, shows, etc.

          Because it would be stupid without any sound. Go ahead and watch the space-battle-scenes in Star Wars/Trek with sound off if it bothers you so much. You would notice after 5 seconds that it would take about 80% of the coolness away from the battle-scenes.

          Battle of Endor with no sound? Starfleet vs. Borg Cube in First Contact with no sound? Battle-scenes in Babylon 5 with no sound? Maybe it's unrealistic, bu

        • by shpoffo (114124)
          Man, I am so tired of hearing peopel say there is no noise from an explosion in a vaccuum. Have you every HEARD an explosion in outer space? NO, you've never even been there and no one has even SEEN something blow up in outer space - so dont' tell me you *know* it doens't make noise....
           
          .[/joke]
           
          .
          -shpoffo
      • Even chemical explosives carry their own oxidizers, or else they wouldn't work in an atmosphere either, the reaction being too fast). So unless you really insist on using a fuse lit with a match, explisives will work everywhere.
  • Crash? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:08PM (#13655545) Journal
    Is this simply a kamikazee run? I did not read anything to make me think otherwise. I seriously question the science of this... being able to calculate the change in direction should only be complicate by not knowing the exact mass of the asteroid.

    I would think something like white paint (using the reflective properties to move the asteroid) would be more interesting. Slower, for sure, but much more effective over a period of months or years.

    Is there something to this mission that I am missing?
    • Is this simply a kamikazee run? I did not read anything to make me think otherwise. I seriously question the science of this...

      Is there something to this mission that I am missing?

      Only the facts of how they plan on moving the asteroid.
    • I would think something like white paint (using the reflective properties to move the asteroid) would be more interesting. Slower, for sure, but much more effective over a period of months or years.

      That is one possible way to move an asteroid. What they're trying is another.

      How bout we try both, so that if we ever REALLY have to do it, we'll have some clue as to what works better.

      • I just think that smashing something into an asteroid could easily be calculated. I don't see what the complications are. We are dealing with very simple physics here. Unless they are working on their ability to HIT the asteroid, I am not sure what they hope to learn.
        • Re:Crash? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Luddite (808273) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:28PM (#13655660)
          >> We are dealing with very simple physics here.

          You've never played nine-ball for money have you? Banging one object into another doesn't always have predictable results.
          • You've never played nine-ball for money have you? Banging one object into another doesn't always have predictable results.

            Ahh, but they are predictable IF all the variables are known. By all the variables, I mean even the effect of your sweaty fingerprints on the balls from the last time they were racked. There are numerous effects to contend with on the billiard table, many of which are not very well known, or under our control. Those who can guess well, or have some sense of those effects are the ones
    • Re:Crash? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by republican gourd (879711) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:22PM (#13655632)
      Yes, the possible deflection of an object of a given mass and velocity when struck with another object can be calculated. But you miss lots of other important information if you ignore real world tests. Just off the top of my head:

      1) You assume that the target object is solid enough to resist being broken into multiple pieces. It does no good to deflect a small chunk of the object while the main mass continues on its normal course.

      2) If you are planning on hitting an object enough to deflect it, you need... a bit of practice. The targetting, propulsion and all other such systems are just as big a part of this test as anything else. All the mathematics in the world won't help you play pool with a bad cue.

      3) Is a collision with an asteroid likely to be elastic? Will the striking object bounce off of the target or embed itself within it? These are very different models as far as where the force goes.

      4) As a side effect, you get more information along the lines of the previous Deep Impact probe.
    • Re:Crash? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Dirtside (91468) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:33PM (#13655694) Journal
      I would think something like white paint (using the reflective properties to move the asteroid) would be more interesting.
      Ladies and gentlemen, we have here a person who literally thinks that watching paint dry is more interesting than watching an explosion. Sir, I wish you good luck in finding a circus capable of handling your freakishness.
  • What happens... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:09PM (#13655547)
    ...if they blow it off course in the wrong direction?
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:12PM (#13655567) Journal
      We all die.

      Seriously, though. If you read the article, you would know that they picked an asteroid that will never cross the earth's path (more than 1AU from sun at all times). The tiny nudge would be like hitting Pavorati with a spit ball. Not nearly enough to make it an earth killer.
      • Maybe they will conduct scale model tests with Pavorati and spit balls.
      • "Pavarotti", not "Pavorati".
      • by Dirtside (91468) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @12:20AM (#13656094) Journal
        I like the idea, however, that there is something we could hit Pavarotti with that would make him an Earth-killer. Gamma radiation, perhaps?

        "Pavarotti SMASH!!! "
    • What happens ... if they blow it off course in the wrong direction?

      Multiple answers:

      ALIENS: "Game over, man, game over!"

      LAST STARFIGHTER: *bzzt* "We die."

      YOSEMITE SAM: "Say yer prayers, varmint."

      MARVIN THE MARTIAN: "The Earth? Oh, the Earth will be gone in just a few seconds."

      Do you feel better now?
  • Liv Tyler? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alex P Keaton in da (882660) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:09PM (#13655556) Homepage
    I'll go if Liv Tyler is waiting upon my return (although when I get back she will be a bit old).
    FTA: On 19 December 2004 MN4, an asteroid of about 400 m, lost since its discovery six months earlier, was observed again and its orbit was computed. It immediately became clear that the chances that it could hit the Earth during a close encounter in 2029 were unusually high. As the days passed the probability did not decrease and the asteroid became notorious for surpassing all previous records in the Torino and Palermo impact risk scales - scales that measure the risk of an asteroid impact just as the Richter scale quantifies the size of an earthquake.
    It is funny what we never think of- every night while we sleep there are so many people keeping us safe- Call me a geek, but astronomers are unsung heroes. I am glad someone is worried about destruction of the Earth...
    • I am glad someone is worried about destruction of the Earth...

      Me too!

      *sticks pinky to his mouth*
    • ...except she might marry some freakin' king by the time I return from my journey. Damn men, always cockblocking us elves!

    • Re:Liv Tyler? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by servognome (738846) on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:09PM (#13655822)
      It is funny what we never think of- every night while we sleep there are so many people keeping us safe- Call me a geek, but astronomers are unsung heroes.

      Yeah, like the guy at the water treatment facility - who keeps us from plague, or the fed-ex guy- who transports vital medical supplies, or the building inspector- who ensures our structures don't collapse on us, or the guy who draws those warning pictures - so we don't accidently eat our Shuffles, or telephone sanitizers.

      Astronomers do an important job, but calling them unsung heroes is a little much. If they volunteer to be stuffed in a cannon and shot at the asteroid to deflect its path, then i'd call them heroes.
      • by tgd (2822)
        OT but if you think building inspectors are the good guys, you've clearly never done any major remodelling.

        Instead of "unsung hero", lets instead call them "territorial demon-spawn".

        And yes, moderators. Thats "insightful" or "funny (in a sad kind of way)" if you've been through that before. "off-topic" if you haven't.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:10PM (#13655559)
    ... but can only watch it in black and white vector graphics, and have to pay $0.25 to view it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:11PM (#13655560)
    ...are located here [ucalgary.ca]. Looks kind of odd.
  • by DavidRawling (864446) <hulk_NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:11PM (#13655561)

    In other news, the asteroid deflected in 2008 by the European Space Agency has been confirmed as hitting Earth in December this year, with an expected impact point near Switzerland.

    It's been nice knowing you folks.

    • I wonder what percentage of us thought roughly the same thing upon reading this summary. Probably a good metric of whether you belong here.
    • That's preposterous. If we have the ability to deflect an asteroid in 2008, surely we have the ability to do so in 2159.
    • by lightyear4 (852813) on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:25PM (#13655891) Homepage

      If it were to impact a landmass, we could consider ourselves lucky. Given the high proportion of water to land on the planet, the odds are overwhelmingly against a land impact. Sure, it happens. Sure, it would suck. A land impact would undoubtedly render complete destruction over a large area, alter local climate, cause all fault-lines to shatter, and reduce the affected area to glowing slag. However, that IS the good news. Now the bad news: Models of an ocean impact suggest the global climate would be upset for decades - if not longer. It would impose near ice-age conditions due to solar energy reflected by the planet-wide clouds caused by the vaporization of several trillion tons of seawater. Muddy, salty rain would destroy the world's breadbaskets. Sunlight might not reach the surface for tens of years.

      ..The implications are enormous, and need not be enumerated; surely the point is made.

      Actions such as these aimed at researching the feasibility of deflection should be supported, not something due scorn. The odds of such a cataclysm occurring in our lifetime are indeed negligible...but surely, being prepared is better than being caught with our pants down.

      Alarmist? Maybe; the course of history will judge.

      • ow the bad news: Models of an ocean impact suggest the global climate would be upset for decades - if not longer. It would impose near ice-age conditions due to solar energy reflected by the planet-wide clouds caused by the vaporization of several trillion tons of seawater. Muddy, salty rain would destroy the world's breadbaskets. Sunlight might not reach the surface for tens of years.

        As opposed to when hitting a land mass and throwing up several thousand tons of dust/ash into the atmosphere? 1816 "Year [wikipedia.org]
      • Given the high proportion of water to land on the planet, the odds are overwhelmingly against a land impact.
        Are 3:1 odds really "overwhelming"?
        • Overwhelming? I suppose that depends; its a matter of semantics. The planet has 361,220,420 km of water..which amounts to just a little over 70 percent of its surface, and much better than a 3:1 chance. The odds also depend upon the trajectory of the approaching object: a head on, near equator impact is about 60/40 in favor of water; from the north pole, just about the opposite at 40/60 water; from the south pole, its more like 85/15 water.
    • n other news, the asteroid deflected in 2008 by the European Space Agency has been confirmed as hitting Earth in December this year, with an expected impact point near Switzerland.

      Lets try that again please. Somehow, you've contrived to have it hit us at least 3 years before it was deflected. This is, in case you've not seen a calendar lately, 2005 (yet).

      --
      Cheers, Gene
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:12PM (#13655564) Journal
    my horoscope... this could immeasurably ruin my life!! Don't these insensitive rock-et science clods know they could end up making it so I never meet a woman?
  • Have something interesting to target... a sattelite packed with explosives.

    Fire up the lazers! (and yes, our hunter killer lazer sattelites are code named doplin 1, and dolphin 2.) We are not without a deadly sense of humor!
  • Fighting windmills? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:17PM (#13655598)
    Surely they should have chosen a name that implied success rather than invoke the name of a hopeless romantic who is known for fighting the inevitable.

    And they could have spelled it correctly: Don Quixote.
    • And they could have spelled it correctly: Don Quixote.

      http://www.aache.com/quijote/ [aache.com]

      rj

    • Surely they should have chosen a name that implied success rather than invoke the name of a hopeless romantic who is known for fighting the inevitable.

      And they could have spelled it correctly: Don Quixote.

      I'm sure it's just spelled with a J for the less educated folks who want a modern version they can understand. Shakespeare usually avoids being severely butchered in classroom textbooks, but you can bet they changed a whole lot of V's to U's and a whole lot of F's to S's, so children could at least

      • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:31PM (#13655916) Journal
        ...and a whole lot of F's to S's, so children could at least pronounce the words. Haven't you ever done a double-take when you've seen the word "Congrefs" written on a piece of parchment?

        **wax on** It's not an F. What you see is the "long s". It's how they used to draw an S character since the days of Carolingian Minuscule, from which hand our "Times Roman" eventually derived. You'll note there was no crossbar on the letter in that form - the crossbar distinguished the "f" from the "long s". The form we take as "s" appeared only at the end of the word. Thus, "Congrefs" would have been pronounced "Congress". **wax off**

        • **wax on** It's not an F. What you see is the "long s". It's how they used to draw an S character since the days of Carolingian Minuscule, from which hand our "Times Roman" eventually derived. You'll note there was no crossbar on the letter in that form - the crossbar distinguished the "f" from the "long s". The form we take as "s" appeared only at the end of the word. Thus, "Congrefs" would have been pronounced "Congress". **wax off**

          Other than describing the character, as you've done, the closest I can

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:21PM (#13655623)
    The two target candidates are:

    1. 2002 AT4
    2. France
  • ... to that crazy Russian lady who claims that stuff like this will mess up her horoscope?
  • Hmm... But wait... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Pichu0102 (916292)
    ...Wouldn't the cost of such a test be well into millions of dollars? That sounds expensive for something that is just a test... But I could be wrong.

    Also, never has the quote at the bottom of the screen been so appropriate.

    Oh, wow! Look at the moon!
  • OOPS (Score:5, Funny)

    by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:51PM (#13655764)
    What we don't want to hear after a successful deflection....

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:05PM (#13655805)
    Brace for another lawsuit from that kooky Russian astrologer.
  • If you're interested in asteroid deflection, Jay Melosh has a few ideas [space.com].

    Including: "Deploying a giant parabolic mirror to concentrate the sun's rays and vaporize rock on the surface of the asteroid. The vaporized material flies off at high speed and generates a re-coil action that pushes the asteroid, slowly but surely, in the opposite direction."

    Which is great, because the parabolic mirror can double as a way for Bruce Willis to cook and refrigerate his food [solarcooking.org] while he's there.
  • Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Liam Slider (908600)
    Great! No really, we need to test out the ability to do this so when we need to do this we can. I hear China also has a planned mission very similar to this. They intent do attempt to change the course of a comet. And we've already demonstrated that we could do such a thing, with Deep Impact (what prompted the Chinese, and likely the ESA as well). True, we didn't change it's course, but if the "object" has been a nuke instead...
    • Re:Awesome (Score:3, Interesting)

      True, we didn't change it's course, but if the "object" has been a nuke instead...

      It doesn't have to be a nuke. Read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" written by an Annapolis grad named Robert Heinlein back in the last century.

      "I don't think we should throw any more rocks at Cheyenne Mountain." " -- Why? " "..It isn't there any more."

    • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eskayp (597995)
      Good to see someone on our planet tending to the immediate threats instead
      of going for more politically productive targets like Mars or the moon.
      Here, in the USA, we haven't even adequately funded the effort to detect
      and track asteroids, let alone deflect or destroy them.
      Until recently amatuer astronomers and a very few dedicated professionals
      have been doing all the heavy lifting, with little or no support from
      our current administration.
      Evidently the people who allocate the funds are too busy starting wars
      a
  • Or, rather, I sure as hell hope there's no irony! I'm gonna be pissed if fifty years from now, the comet they pushed ends up smashing into Earth. That sorta shit can just ruin a fellow's day.
  • I want a filter that removes posts about Armageddon in any thread that mentions the word "asteroid"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    the ESA for showing forethought in a time of chaos. This is the kind of productive stuff that needs to happen.

    We waste so much money on boondoggles (won't even go into that) but so little effort now goes into research into the human condition. We are a smart group, us humans, when we really HAVE to be. Why not try to make it a little more often, just for flip sake, eh?
  • It's A Trap (Score:2, Funny)

    by nate nice (672391)
    Wouldn't it be really funny if they changed its course to Earth? Someone has to lose their job for that one.
  • by UnapprovedThought (814205) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @01:47AM (#13656366) Journal
    One craft will impact the asteroid while the other will observe the asteroid before and after the collision

    This sounds a lot like something that's been tried before. Why don't they draw a conclusion from the existing data from Tempel-1? Or, while they're at it, why not try a new concept?

    For instance, how about landing on the asteroid and attaching an anchor to it? Drop anchor (unreel) and wait for the closest approach to the moon. Then, use an ion drive on the anchor to bring it as close to the moon as possible. If the cable is long enough, the anchor will be pulled down into the gravity well of the moon with much greater force than otherwise. It won't capture the asteroid in lunar orbit, but the trajectory of the asteroid will be changed in a far more predictable and adjustable way than with impacts and explosions.

    An extra bonus is that communicating with the anchor, you will always know the exact location of the asteroid.

    The only catch is that you need a very long cable, and that will raise the launch costs.

  • The grants game (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grozzie2 (698656) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @02:04AM (#13656404)
    This article just goes to show how silly the 'grants game' is when it comes to this type of space mission. The deep impact mission was planned and built when analysis of the rocks was 'in vogue', so it was 'justified' by analyzing ejecta etc from the impact, to determine asteroid composition. Now the ESA boys are contemplating a mission nearly identical, but political times have changed, and 'impacts' is the hot button for getting first priority on grants, so, instead of marking the 'composition analysis' as the primary objective, they mark the 'trajectory change' as the primary objective, and presto, the same mission goes to the top of the heap in the grants pile.

    If you think about this even semi rationally, look at the data from the Deep Impact mission. The trajectory of the rock prior to impact was quite well known, well enough, an intercept course could be plotted and executed. Does anybody think that nobody at nasa thought to measure trajectory AFTER the impact, and possibly calculate trajectory changes of the target rock? This is a mission that cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and that's extremely valuable information, available for the taking after the impact. I'm quite sure that while the primary investigators on Deep Impact are all wrapped up in analyzing ejecta data, there are secondary investigators measuring and calculating trajectory changes.

    The proposed ESA mission is basically Deep Impact Version 2.0, a more refined variant than version 1. Version 1 (executed by Nasa) intended to hit the target rock, and studying ejecta was labelled as the 'primary' objective. In Version 2, the objective is to hit the target rock much more precisely, relabel the 'primary data' as that of the trajectory change, and re-label the ejecta data as 'secondary'. The end result is, a mission plan that hits more political hot buttons (reference the data collection re-labelling), its easier to get grants for impactor related investigation today.

    The reality is, this mission is a logical follow on which builds on the success of Deep Impact. The re-labelling of primary mission goals is just an artifact of the political process required to procure funding, the 'grants game'. The data regarding target object composition will still be collected in various forms, and it'll still get analyzed, just as trajectory data is still being collected and analyzed from the Deep Impact mission.

    • Re:The grants game (Score:5, Informative)

      by The Master Control P (655590) <`moc.kcahsdren' `ta' `reveekje'> on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @02:20AM (#13656438)
      NASA's Deep Impact mission was against a comet. Because comets continually eject large amounts of gas and dust while they are inside Jupiter orbit, it is not possible to track the comet accurately enough to know what changes in it's course were caused by the impact and what was caused by the gas and dust normally ejected. Indeed, it's impossible to predict the exact path of short-period comets because of this.

      By launching a projectile at an asteroid instead, we will know that any changes in the asteroid's trajectory were caused by our impactor because asteroids are inert and have otherwise very stable and predictable orbits.
  • Should I Worry? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by izomiac (815208) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @02:16AM (#13656428) Homepage
    I'm starting to get worried here. Most of the space programs in the world are trying to hit asteroids, perhaps deflect them. Even the military is now looking at anti-satellite weapons. So I'm beginning to wonder, what's with this sudden surge of interest in defense against things hitting us from space? Do they know something (troubling) that I don't?
    • ...Do they know something (troubling) that I don't?

      I suspect they know a lot of things that you don't. Things that you would find very troubling.
  • by zootm (850416) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @07:25AM (#13657133)

    There's a Beagle 2 joke here somewhere, but I can't place it.

"Floggings will continue until morale improves." -- anonymous flyer being distributed at Exxon USA

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