No Asteroid Impact on Mars After All

Expected asteroid impact would have let scientists study crater formation and underlying Martian geology

2 min read

22 January 2008—The NASA Near Earth Object (NEO) Program office in Pasadena, Calif., says that astronomical data from four different observatories now rule out a collision between a recently identified asteroid and the planet Mars. On 20 November 2007, astronomers working at the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey found the 50-meter asteroid. The discovery caused a scientific frenzy after early predictions indicated that the asteroid, designated 2007 WD5, would have a 1 in 75 chance of striking Mars on 30 January 2008. Scientists had hoped to study the crater the asteroid impact would have made on Mars and the geology it would have revealed.

The closest the asteroid will come to Mars is 26 000 kilometers, says Don Yeomans, an astronomer with the NEO office. It will pass by Mars’s two moons, Phobosand Deimos, missing them by 34 400 km and 20 300 km, respectively. ”The impact probability for all three objects is now zero,” says Yeomans.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

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