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[Wired] NASA Builds Six-Foot Crossbow to Harpoon Comets

post #1 of 43
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Landing on its surface sounds like risky business, so engineers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center are working on a harpoon gun that can spear the heart of the comet, collect a sample of subsurface dirt in its tip and reel it back into the hovering craft.

To that end, the Goddard lab now houses a monstrous six-foot-long crossbow, with a bow made from a pair of truck carriage springs, and a string made from a half-inch-thick steel cable. This industrial-strength ballista can generate a level of force up to 1,000 pounds.

NASA is getting all medieval with their tech. I wonder if they will find anything living in the comets...
    
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post #2 of 43
imagine gettin shot by one. Living? I doubt it. Very few organisms can live in a environment with no air. An even smaller fraction are organisms can live in a place without air at sub-zero temps. And then they would need to be microbes that either survive off of rocks or by sunlight.
Edited by matty0610 - 12/14/11 at 10:01am
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post #3 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by just_nuke_em View Post

I wonder if they will find anything living in the comets...

I vote for a zombie creating bacteria or virus.

Edit: Or fungus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie_ants can't forget about them.
Edited by Myrtl - 12/14/11 at 10:29am
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post #4 of 43
Really? A Harpoon? And they wonder why their funding has been cut. How much did they smoke to come up with that solution.

Scientist 1: Hey maaaannn, how can we get a sample from a passing by comet?
Scientist 2: ... Lets build a laser that zaps it into small pieces and we will collect the dust after words.
Scientist 1: Nahhhh, to much work vacuuming space up.
Scientist 2: How about a plunger on a string that sucks up particles?
Scientist 1: Oooo, now you're on to something... I GOT IT!!!
Scientist 2: What is it?
Scientist 1: We build a large crossbow and we shoot it at the comet with a plunger on the end to take samples.
Scientist 2: My god, we're genius.
Scientist 1: Oh yes, we're NASA.
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post #5 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by KusH View Post

Really? A Harpoon? And they wonder why their funding has been cut. How much did they smoke to come up with that solution.

Sometimes you don't need ultra mega superduper high tech to do stuff.
   
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post #6 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by KusH View Post

Really? A Harpoon? And they wonder why their funding has been cut. How much did they smoke to come up with that solution.
Scientist 1: Hey maaaannn, how can we get a sample from a passing by comet?
Scientist 2: ... Lets build a laser that zaps it into small pieces and we will collect the dust after words.
Scientist 1: Nahhhh, to much work vacuuming space up.
Scientist 2: How about a plunger on a string that sucks up particles?
Scientist 1: Oooo, now you're on to something... I GOT IT!!!
Scientist 2: What is it?
Scientist 1: We build a large crossbow and we shoot it at the comet with a plunger on the end to take samples.
Scientist 2: My god, we're genius.
Scientist 1: Oh yes, we're NASA.

It is probably more to do with their funding getting cut that this was developed, not somethign like this causing their funding to get cut. In 1980 NASA would have used custom made springs made out of titanium to build a launching mechanism to fire a rocket propelled shaft of depleted uranium costing about a billion tax dollars. Plus there would have been a team of 400 engineers working on it and about a dozen contract companies coming in to basically supervise.

I actually have much more respect for them now. They just probably went out to a truck parts store and bought some springs. What they built will do the just fine and didn't cost much. Though the expensive version is probably coming yet...this one is just a prototype, but in the past the prototypes were often more expensive and build tougher than the stuff they actually used
Edited by Vagrant Storm - 12/14/11 at 10:17am
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post #7 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by KusH View Post

Really? A Harpoon? And they wonder why their funding has been cut. How much did they smoke to come up with that solution.
Scientist 1: Hey maaaannn, how can we get a sample from a passing by comet?
Scientist 2: ... Lets build a laser that zaps it into small pieces and we will collect the dust after words.
Scientist 1: Nahhhh, to much work vacuuming space up.
Scientist 2: How about a plunger on a string that sucks up particles?
Scientist 1: Oooo, now you're on to something... I GOT IT!!!
Scientist 2: What is it?
Scientist 1: We build a large crossbow and we shoot it at the comet with a plunger on the end to take samples.
Scientist 2: My god, we're genius.
Scientist 1: Oh yes, we're NASA.

Their funding would have gotten cut further if you were working there.
    
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post #8 of 43
Wouldn't pulling a harpoon out of a comet in space just pull you towards the comet?

edit - Nevermind the tip detaches and retracts.

I like low fi solutions if they get the job done. Truck springs and steel wire sound appropriate for generating force. No need to spend a million dollars on milled platinum space springs or something.
    
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post #9 of 43
LOL a Harpoon to shoot down comets. Made my day.

Or how about and arrow to that comet... biggrin.gif
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post #10 of 43
I thought Comets had gravity fields around them?
What exactly are they going to attach the end of that long steel string? The moon? I would not want to be attached to that in the event the harpoon became permanently affixed to the comet.
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