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Space Technology

ESA Selects Targets for Asteroid Deflection Test 284

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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  • 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?
  • 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...
  • by Zaak ( 46001 ) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:14PM (#13655575) Homepage
    What's wrong with the good old p=mv (momentum)?

    "In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is."
    -- Yogi Berra

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:24PM (#13655638)
    I think they want to determine how much p of the impactor is needed to change the v of a rock. You see, the important thing is whether the micro-asteroid will stay together or not. Delta p is known in advance, of course!

  • 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.
  • by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:29PM (#13655665)
    And they could have spelled it correctly: Don Quixote. []


  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:32PM (#13655686) Journal
    I often wonder where they get these names for missions from. There are some mission acronyms out there that are so ridiculous, they make you wonder if they didn't start with the abbreviated word first and then fill things in from there.

    In this case, they've decided to name this mission after an old man off his rocker who thought he was a chivalrous knight of old. One of his more famous skirmishes was against a windmill he thought was a giant. Amazingly enough, he only damaged himself when he charged it. Perhaps that is where they have derived their inspiration. Let us hope they have a little more luck.
  • by MyGodAreThereNoNickn ( 918094 ) on Monday September 26, 2005 @10:36PM (#13655705)
    I haven't RTFA, but I expect that they aren't looking to challenge the laws of physics as much as test their engineering skills. It's pretty hard to hit something that far away and going that fast, especially if you want to hit it a particular way. They are probably testing to see if they can hit it just the way they want to so that they can actually make use of p=mv.
  • by ( 907022 ) <> on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:04PM (#13655800) Homepage Journal
    I don't see why this was modded funny, it's very serious. Testing like this now is essential if we want to have any reliable ability to do things like this in future.
  • 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.
  • Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Liam Slider ( 908600 ) on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:25PM (#13655889)
    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...
  • by lightyear4 ( 852813 ) on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:25PM (#13655891)

    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.

  • Re:Awesome (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eskayp ( 597995 ) on Monday September 26, 2005 @11:54PM (#13655988)
    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
    and creating tax breaks for their cronies.
    If George Bush would look to the heavens instead of praying to them
    he would find plenty of weapons of mass destruction in earth crossing orbits.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @12:00AM (#13656009)
    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?
  • 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.
  • Re:NO DADDY NO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Matt_R ( 23461 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @02:06AM (#13656407) Homepage
    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:Careful! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vlachen ( 677671 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @02:45AM (#13656506)
    That's it.

    You're all cut off.

    No more! No more I say!

    How many "what if they knock it on course to hit Earth" lines does a person have to read around here.

    For the sake of sanity, STOP!
  • Re:Crash? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @03:39AM (#13656633) Homepage Journal
    Another one: in space, things impacted will spin unless they are hit exactly in line with their center of mass. Your energy intended for deflection might just spin the object up.
  • Re:Crash? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by MaskedSlacker ( 911878 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @03:40AM (#13656636)
    Yes, and no. Yes to your exact question, no to your implied extension of its meaning. In the case of pool, we know all the specific rules under which the balls behave. The behavoir is predictable. We can predict their exact motion given sufficient information about the initial state of the system. In the case of people, we do not have basic mathematical relationships detailing how they behave. However, there is a difference between truly unpredictable (i.e. random) and unpredictable in the weaker sense that we simply lack the knowledge necessary to make the relevant prediction. These are not the same thing.
  • Re:NO DADDY NO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2005 @06:13AM (#13656954)
    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, but I prefer them WITH sound, thankyouverymuch!

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