Mars to get near-miss

Refined orbital calculations brought good news for Martians, disappointment to scientists...

From the NASA/JPL Near-Earth Object Program Office -- January 9, 2008 -- Since our last update, we have received numerous tracking measurements of asteroid 2007 WD5 from four different observatories. These new data have led to a significant reduction in the position uncertainties during the asteroid's close approach to Mars on Jan. 30, 2008. As a result, the impact probability has dropped dramatically, to approximately 0.01 percent or 1 in 10,000 odds, effectively ruling out the possible collision with Mars. Our best estimate now is that 2007 WD5 will pass about 26,000 km from the planet's center (about 7 Mars radii from the surface) at around 12:00 UTC on Jan. 30th. With 99.7 PERCENT confidence, the pass should be no closer than 4000 km from the surface.

An asteroid hitting Mars would have presented scientists with an historic opportunity to observe the dynamics of such a collision and study the composition of the Red Planet. Several highly-sophisticated spacecraft are currently in orbit around Mars and would have delivered a wealth of unexpected information had the asteroid hit. Oh well, you can't win 'em all!

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