"Since, in the long run, every planetary civilization will be endangered by impacts from space, every surviving civilization is obliged to become spacefaring — not because of exploratory or romantic zeal, but for the most practical reason imaginable: staying alive… If our long-term survival is at stake, we have a basic responsibility to our species to venture to other worlds."
What You Need to Know About Mars Comet Siding Spring
On Sunday, October 19th, Comet C/2013 A1, aka Siding Spring, will pass within about 87,000 miles of the Red Planet. The comet is between 0.5-5 miles wide.
The distance the comet will be from Mars is less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.
Siding Spring most likley created in our outer solar system between Jupiter and Neptune around 4.6 billion years ago — just a few million years after the solar system formed. Scientists believe Siding Spring had a close encounter with one of these planets and was shot out into the Oort Cloud
A million years ago or so, a star passing by the Oort Cloud is thought to have bumped the comet’s orbit again, sending it on its current trip toward the inner solar system.
Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. Since this is Comet Siding Spring’s first trip through the inner solar system, scientists are excited to learn more about its composition and the effects of its gas and dust on the Mars upper atmosphere.
NASA does not think the comet hit the Red Planet, but comets spew out a trail of dust and gas, and that could damage the fleet of spacecraft orbiting Mars. Just to be safe, NASA will move the Mars Odyssey orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and the new Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) to the other side of the planet as the comet approaches.
The Mars orbiters will take pictures and collect data on the comet as it flys by. Several Earth-based and space telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, also will take pictures. Here is the full list of NASA assets observing Siding Spring
The comet was first discovered in January 2013 by Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.
The space shuttle Discovery climbs toward Earth orbit following a successful liftoff from KSC’s Pad 39A at 8:41:50 a.m. (EDT), Aug. 30, 1984. Inside the spacecraft are six crewmembers looking forward to a busy week in space. The scene was photographed by astronaut John W. Young in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA).
Photo credit: NASA
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