Once again, with its infinite wisdom on helping the world become a smarter place, NASA (motto: “Things are looking up”) has launched (no pun intended) a whole new experiment.

What is this fantastic experiment, you ask? I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself!

They are going to ram a piece of machinery into a comet and break it open. And get this! Then they are going to take a peek inside, to see if it’s made up of the stuff that all our science books say it is!

Isn’t this exciting? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Please allow me to inform you a little more on the subject.

Since 1999, NASA has been working on a project called Deep Impact. Finally, after a few delays, on Jan. 12 they launched a flyby spacecraft headed toward Temple 1, the comet that scientists want to break open.

On July 4, preferably 2005, the craft will launch an “impactor” at the comet. The “impactor”-which, by the way, isn’t even a real word, according to Webster-will hurtle at speeds of 22,000 mph, and possibly dent the comet. But scientists have faith that it will break it open, creating a crater the size of a football field. If this actually happens, all the NASA people will jump up and yell “SCORE!”

This will then allow a spacecraft to actually touch the nucleus of a comet.

Isn’t this just what the world needs? I definitely think it’s worth the $330 million it took to put it together.

To quote from one of the articles I read, “Comets are seen as the building blocks of the solar system.”

Basically, scientists want to get inside one and see what they are actually made of. When comets get close to the sun, their exterior changes but their insides don’t. That’s why it’s so important to get at the nucleus.

Actually, comets aren’t all that complicated. If I took some dirt, water and my Uncle Don and put them into my freezer, a comet would form, as I would have the same ingredients that are in a comet: dust, ice and gas.

Also, comets are considered to be primitive debris (pronounced Dih-BREE), left over from when the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago. But who’s counting?

The specific comet that NASA wants to observe, Temple 1, was discovered by astronomer Ernst Temple in 1867. It most likely formed beyond the plant Neptune in the Kuiper belt, which can be used to hold up the rings of various planets, should the planets start to lose weight.

However, there is so little data about comets, no one really knows how successful this mission is going to be.

The “projectile,” which is about the size of a trash can, will shoot from the spacecraft and into the comet.

Experts (defined as people with useless letters before or after their name, such as “Dr.” or “Ph.”) disagree on what kind of impact the “impactor” will actually have on the nucleus of the comet.

Some say the nuclei is sturdy and will stay in one piece, and some think that it will fracture into pieces. Still others say we’d be lucky to dent the surface.

I think it would have been easier to allow NASA to look in my freezer.

Once the impactor has successfully blown out a chunk of the oversized scoop of Rocky Road ice cream, the flyby spacecraft will observe and record data about the impact, the composition and structure of the comet interior and the materials ejected from the comet after impact.

I just hope it knows how to determine whether the materials are natural-comet-junk or NASA-projectile-fragments.

From earth, professionals and amateurs will be able to observe this event with telescopes. The results will even be available to view on the Internet.

I’m sure you won’t want to miss out on the Deep Impact that NASA’s discoveries will have on our daily lives here on earth. You too will be able to join in on the fun with a set of binoculars-supposing you can see around all the fireworks.

* * *

UFO: The planet Venus spins the opposite way than the other planets.

Don’t ask why!

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