Sunday, June 26, 2005

Our Tax Dollars At Work

Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of NASA. I realized one of my childhood dreams on my fortieth birthday by visiting the Kennedy Space Center. I spent more than a hundred dollars in the gift shop. I'm wearing my Apollo Thirteen sweatshirt with the words "Failure is not an option" on it as I sit here typing this blog. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is probably my favorite government institution.
That being said, I can't help but wonder what is going on there these days. We are about to spend three hundred and thirty-three million dollars on a space probe that will land - ever so briefly - on a comet. Check that, they hope that the probe will make impact with the comet, Tempel 1, on the Fourth of July. If they did all their calculations correctly and the solar winds don't shift and nobody forgot to tighten the nut that holds the air orifice "O" ring in place...
If everything works right, scientists hope to get "some really great pictures" of the collision. Mostly they want to see what happens when one smaller thing going pretty fast runs into something much bigger going much faster. Scientists have likened it to standing in the middle of the road and being hit by a semi-truck going 23,000 mph — "you know, just bam!" NASA, it seems, has been taken over by a group of thirteen year-old boys. To support this conclusion, I offer up the evidence of the name of the space probe: Deep Impact. They picked the name of the disaster movie about asteroids hitting the Earth that wasn't very good. "Armageddon" has a much tougher ring to it.
So, on July Fourth, if they got everything just right, they hope to make a big hole in Tempel 1 - "the impact should produce a stadium-sized crater about 150 feet deep and 650 feet wide." At the same time, these same scientists are pretty sure that what they're doing won't send the comet on a collision course with Earth. But that would be pretty cool, wouldn't it? Sheesh.

1 comment:

haywagon said...

I am comforted by the knowledge that if NASA does screw up and sets the comet racing towards us, Captain Action will save the day.