The Good News Is They Detected It

The relatively small object in space was detected before it got here, but it’s trajectory determined to be – worrisome. It would be a close call, missing the earth center by about 6000 miles. That’s razor close when you consider we’re not at the center of the earth, but 4000 miles away from that point.

The bad news, is that it was the European Rosetta Spacecraft.

The mix-up generated a few red faces, but also points to some important lessons.

“It shows that the telescopes are picking these objects up,” says Robert Massey, a spokesperson for the Royal Astronomical Society in the UK. “For them it’s just a moving point of light that is not easy to identify as a spacecraft.”

He concedes that a lack of coordination may have contributed to the error, but believes the fly-by has been a good test of the alerting system. “The alert was not particularly alarmist, the spacecraft was identified, and no major announcement was made,” he says.

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