July 4 2005

NASA Plays Crash ‘Em Up

There just seems something very odd about NASA being excited about one of their probes crashing to destruction, but when you built it to do just that, I guess it’s a good thing.

We launched Deep Impact to collide with the comet named Tempel 1, a 14 km wide snowball essentially. The hope is this would give us a peak into the origins of our solar system as the comet dates from them.

Ok, here’s my question. As far as I can tell, all we did was take pictures. Most of them from a distance. According to a story on the BBC news site, scientists do think this is an exciting event.

UK planetary scientist Dr Monica Grady, from the Open University, watched a feed of the Deep Impact images sent down to Earth.

“It’s absolutely fantastic to see this,” she said. “Before we knew so little about the comet nucleus; we had little idea of what the surface looked like.

“We now have these high-resolution images and can compare this crater against natural ones. We’re going to get so much out of this.”

Why is this exciting? So we crashed something big into the comet, going at a speed of about 37,000 km/h. Of course it’s going to go *BOOM*. We spent $333 Million dollars to figure this out. I could have told them for free. Another scientist from the BBC article though says

And Professor Iwan Williams, from Queen Mary, University of London, who is working on Europe’s Rosetta mission to a comet, was also taken aback by the scale of the event.

“It was like mosquito hitting a 747. What we’ve found is that the mosquito didn’t splat on the surface, it’s actually gone through the windscreen.”

Again….why exactly is this exciting? Let me just say for the record, I am all for NASA and what it does. I am beyond stoked that Spirit and Oppurtunity have long outlived their projected 90 day lives on Mars.

I just think we could have spent this $333 million on something better. It looks like the Hubble Telescope will be shut down due to a lack of funds. Why couldn’t we have used the money to keep it running? The Hubble, despite initial problems, has proven to be a fantastic tool, providing thousands upon thousands of pictures of near and distant objects. Naw…lets spend the hundreds of millions on an object we get one use out of.

It just seems to me to be a bad use of funds in a very limited budget.

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