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The slam-bang 'Don Quijote' mission would help scientists figure out how to deflect or destroy any asteroid in the future that might be found to be on a collision course with Earth. The project uses the Spanish spelling of Don Quixote, the protagonist in Cervantes' novel who has chivalrous ideas that tend toward the impractical.
Scientists don't know enough about asteroid insides to predict how one would respond to attempts to nudge it off an Earth-impact course or turn it into harmless dust. While no asteroids are currently known to be on track to hit the planet, experts say a regional catastrophe is inevitable in the very long run-- over millennia. And run-ins with small asteroids that could incinerate a large city occur ever few thousand years.
And how. The 770-pound (350-kilogram) probe will hit the comet at 22,300 miles (35, 885 kilometers) per hour and penetrate 16 to 32 feet (5 to 10 meters). Much, but not all of the probe will be vaporized.
Then a bunch of the comet's innards will spew outward at about half the speed that the projectile came in. Over the course of about 200 seconds, more material will be excavated, carving a hole as big as a football field and seven stories deep.
Before impact, the comet will be visible in a good amateur telescope. But the freshly ejected material will enlarge the halo of debris around the comet, off of which sunlight reflects, and it will brighten dramatically.
Originally posted by onlyinmydreams
Like the European mission, it will utilize a mother/observer ship and an interceptor probe