Some view assault on comet as something other than laudable science

Is it an attack on nature, prelude to apocalypse?

July 03, 2005|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Not everyone is as excited as cometary scientists are about NASA's plans to blast a hole in a comet this weekend.

Uncertainties about what will happen when Deep Impact's impactor plows into the comet's nucleus have stirred anxiety and anger in some circles about the space agency's eagerness to fool with Mother Nature.

Writing in January in an online forum called "John P. Hoke's Asylum," a contributor identifying himself as Rob Razor said, "I just don't think it's a good idea to be placing bombs on comets."

"Space, the final frontier, should remain a mystery until we learn how to take care of our planet," he said. "Now we are destroying other planets we haven't even visited, with no concern for the long-term effects. Count me out."

In Moscow, an astrologer named Marina Bai sued NASA in Presnensky District Court, demanding that NASA halt the $311 million mission and pay her the equivalent in rubles for "moral damage."

Her complaint argued that "the actions of NASA infringe upon my system of spiritual and life values, in particular on the values of every element of creation ... and the violation of the natural balance of the Universe."

The Rev. Harry Walther, of, who forecasts that a bigger comet will smash into Earth in 2012 and bring the world to an end, concludes on his Web site that "more than likely `Deep Impact' contains a bunker buster, nuclear warhead that will crash deep within the comet and detonate. ... Is this target practice for the Doomsday Comet: 2012 AD?"

Scientists are pretty sure their 820-pound impactor will do no serious damage to a comet that's half the size of Manhattan. They've compared it to flipping a penny into the path of a speeding 18-wheeler.

And, they say, the energy imparted to the comet will alter its orbit by just 33 feet. So there's no chance the comet will be knocked into an orbit dangerous to Earth.

They're just hoping for a chance to study Tempel 1's innards after Deep Impact blasts a crater in the surface and hurls the debris out into space.

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