Goatview Farm - The Saint Report www.goatview.com

March 23
Near Miss Day

On this day in 1989, an asteroid that could have left a crater the size of Washington, D.C., harmlessly passed by the earth at a distance of 500,000 miles. Whew.

We haven't always been that lucky and the smart money is on our getting unlucky again one of these days. After all (and this amazes me), if the earth didn't have soil, water, and vegetation, it would look very much like the moon, pock-marked by collisions over millions of years. The difference is that the earth has make-up, not that the moon is running interference for us.

It is theorized that every major extinction in Earth's history coincided with an asteroid collision that dramatically altered the existing weather patterns. The threat of a major collision is real to the point of being inevitable.

But don't you fret. Spain (along with Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom) is on top of this. Those countries make up the European Space Agency (ESA) whose goal is drawing up and executing the European space program. And one aspect of the European space program is figuring out how to deflect an asteroid.

With style, wit, and humility, the Europeans have named this mission "Don Quijote." If the USA were working on it, we would probably have called it "Terminator," a "literary" allusion more likely to be understood by us.

This is from the July 13, 2004, CNN story:

The mission would involve two spacecraft -- Sancho and Hidalgo -- launched on different trajectories toward one asteroid about 550 yards (500 meters) in diameter. A rock that size would cause serious damage across a widespread area and absolute destruction at the local level.

Sancho would arrive first and orbit the asteroid for several months. It would deploy some penetrating probes to form a seismic network on the asteroid to examine its structure before and after its sister craft's smashing arrival.

Hidalgo would crash into the asteroid at about 22,370 mph (10 kilometers per second).

Sancho would observe from a safe distance, then move in for a closer look. It would study changes in the asteroid's orbit, rotation and structure caused by the impact, said Willy Benz, a member of the mission's study team from the University of Bern in Switzerland.

The mission would 'provide information about how an asteroid reacts to such stresses, which is an important step in the whole impact hazard reduction business,' Benz said."

Just in case you need your memories refreshed (and that's all it would be--a refreshing--since Saint Report readers have grounding in the classics), Don Quijote (the Spanish spelling of Quixote) was Spanish author Cervantes' crazy nobleman who jousted with windmills thinking they were enemies. The windmills won. Sancho Panza was his squire and Hidalgo was his rank.

As earthquakes have the Richter and Mercali Scales, hurricanes have the Saffir Simpson Scale, and tornadoes have the Fujita Scale, asteroids have the Torino Scale.

Back to humility and the classics, maybe by avoiding the tragic flaw of hubris, the ESA is going to enjoy more good fortune and acquire more international respect with Mission Don Quijote than we had with "Shock and Awe."


Barney Clark Death Anniversary
March 23, 1983

Barney Clark, Seattle dentist, was the first recipient of an artificial heart. The device extended his natural life by 112 days.

While he was having the operation, burglars broke into his house and stole everything they could hock.

Moral: I don't have a clue. It just seemed like the kind of story that ought to have one.

Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Turibius de Mongrovejo, Saint Victorian and Companions, Saint Benedict the Hermit, Saint Ethelwald or Oidiwald the Hermit, and Saint Joseph Oriol.

Not Celebrating: Joan "No More Wire Hangers" Crawford (1904-1977), Wernher von Braun (1912-1977)

Still Celebrating: The only name I recognized was Amanda Plummer's (1957, NYC)...a boring day for birthdays.

And, from IMDB...the complete list of celebrating stars.

Onward to March 24
Back to March 22
Back to the Farm

Marilyn Jones 2002-2008