Mission To A Passing Comet Leaves NASA Scrambling To Avoid Disaster

NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft, launched in January of this year and intended to make explosive contact with a passing comet, is now a threat to humans.

Hoping to study the difference between the interior of a comet’s nucleus and its surface, the spacecraft originally was directed toward the comet Tempel 1 to impact it violently and create a substantial crater. Scientist believe controlled cratering would allow a look deep into the interior of the comet and perhaps help science to theorize comets roles in the early evolution of the Earth. Now something has gone terribly wrong.

During scheduled communications with the probe on March 25th, technicians performed a bake-off of moisture in the barrel of the spacecraft’s High Resolution Instrument because its imaging ability was compromised. The bake-off failed to achieve perfect focus, and as if to reward effort with further insult, project managers now believe additional instructions transmitted to refine the craft’s trajectory somehow became corrupted and the craft’s direction was altered to its current one. The craft has stopped responding altogether and is swiftly headed straight back to Earth.

Deep Impact is comprised of two parts; a flyby spacecraft and a smaller impactor which was to be released into the comet’s path causing the high-speed collision. The crater that would have been produced by the impactor was expected to range from the width of a house up to the size of a football stadium and be from two to 14 stories deep. Now, instead of meeting the comet Tempel 1, both the impactor and the craft it resides in are currently expected to impact Paris, France in early July.

“Right now it’s a lot of dumb weight headed toward the Eiffel Tower region“,  said Dr. Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland and the mission leader. “Everyone on the science and engineering teams is getting very worried and dreading the encounter. But we can do nothing to help at this time; Deep Impact remains completely unresponsive.”

If, as is expected, the craft strikes a highly populated area of Paris, the death toll could be substantial and the worst disaster in NASA’s history. It’s even possible the craft could crash in a remote area. Currently there is much uncertainty. The only agreement is that Deep Impact is on it’s way back home and not likely to impact any comets along the way.

13 thoughts on “Mission To A Passing Comet Leaves NASA Scrambling To Avoid Disaster

  1. If Deep Impact lands in the Grand Canyon, would it become Deep Throat? Any chance to redirect it towards D.C. where it might do some good for humanity? Ahhh, the “What if’s” of science and science fiction. LOL

  2. Brock,

    You might have snuck this past us if it wasn’t April Fool’s Day.  It was a nice touch that you used the names of real people involved in Deep Impact.

  3. You mean this was all a puerile joke?  Here I was, just about ready to cancel my trip to the land of the croaker cookers.  What a relief- the French might not be able to make better wine than the Californians, but those croissants…

  4. I was wise to it pretty early. This simply isn’t Brock’s usual subject matter wink

  5. I bought it until I opened up the comments.  My first thought was “Holy shit, they finally decided to wage war on the French.”  LOL

  6. I HATE April 1.

    I’m sorry but this kind of drivel wasn’t funny when Slashdot tried it out oh-so-many-eons-ago. When will the internet community finally quit beating the rotting corpse of April 1.

    *sigh* I should just write this off as a day to actually get something done and not for web-surfing.

  7. You had me going until I hit the Paris, France part!  I actually designed one of the parts on that thing (part of the radar responsible for receiving data back from the impact), so I was especially disconcerted.

  8. First of all >  I fooled the lot of you, I just know I did.

    Second, Ingolfson, what is my usual subject matter?

    Third, you guys know you bought the bridge. Just admit it!

    Fourth, Chad, did you really have a hand in the design or is that an April Fool’s statement. If you really did then cool beans!

    Fifth, you guys know you bought the bridge…

  9. Brock,

    If I wasn’t as geeky as I was and hadn’t have followed the progress of the Deep Impact probe as closely as I have been you would have gotten me too.  As is I did pause a moment and consider the possibility that I might have missed something.  It was a good joke though.  It sounded convincing.

  10. Fourth, Chad, did you really have a hand in the design or is that an April Fool’s statement. If you really did then cool beans!

    Brock, no fooling here!  Sometimes I know what the stuff I design goes into and sometimes I don’t.  In this case, our customer let me know.  It certainly makes it a little more nerve-racking!

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