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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Best Fireworks Ever

Ever get the impression that NASA's main concern really isn't the advancement of science and knowledge, but just to do such insanely cool things with a calculator that people will drop their jaws in awe? It's like college jocks during a weekend binge of challenging each other into chewing glass or smashing bottles over their heads, except being the exact opposite of feats of stupidity. Like one math geek will announce he's going to drop a tiny robot on Mars using nothing but a parachute and another exclaims, "Oh yeah, I'm going to throw a satellite into a comet!" and then everyone just lets out a collective "ooooooo".

Yeah, as if that wasn't neat enough, they decided to time the whole thing for Independance Day.

The most spectacular fireworks this Fourth of July promise to be out of this world—83 million miles (133 million kilometers) out of this world, to be precise.

NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will be launching a projectile into the surface of comet Tempel 1. It is the first time a spacecraft will touch the nucleus of a comet.

The blast should be visible with the aid of binoculars to millions of people here on Earth in the early morning hours of U.S. Independence Day.

"Those in the U.S. living west of the Mississippi [and in] Hawaii, and [those living in] New Zealand will have ringside seating for the impact event in a dark sky," said Don Yeomans, a Deep Impact mission scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
-- NASA Deep Impact Probe on Target for July 4 Comet Smash

Damn. See also the recent slashdot post of a Deep Impact video. Might be worthy of a road trip if Chicago physics during the coming weekend didn't require more time to escape downtown traffic than actually exists in the weekend itself, so that by the time you get to your destination you already have to go home.

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