Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
by Brooks Hays
Pasadena, Calif. (UPI) Jul 25, 2013
Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring won't whiz by Mars for another two-plus months, but NASA is already preparing its Mars orbiters for the flyby.
Currently, NASA has two observation craft circling the Martian planet. A third will arrive just a month prior to the arrival of Comet C/2013 A1.
"Three expert teams have modeled this comet for NASA and provided forecasts for its flyby of Mars," explained Rich Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The hazard is not an impact of the comet nucleus, but the trail of debris coming from it."
Though the risk isn't as great as once thought, even the tiniest pieces of debris -- which will be spewed from the passing comet at a rate of 35 miles per second -- could do serious damage to one of the three orbiters.
"Mars will be right at the edge of the debris cloud, so it might encounter some of the particles -- or it might not," said Zurek.
NASA will make slight adjustments to the orbiter's path to minimize the risk of the comet's debris hitting the spacecraft. But the three probes will still be in prime position to capture hopefully impressive footage of the flyby. The comet will pass Mars at one-tenth the closest distance a comet has ever come to Earth.
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|