Museum of Science and Industry

Like modern day Ahabs, the folks over at NASA have taken to designing a harpoon capable of tackling the great white beasts of space: comets! These notoriously chaotic celestial bodies tumble quickly and move at up to 150,000 mph while spewing forth a cloud of debris. Given the volatile character of these objects, it is dangerous to approach one too closely. Thus NASA is currently investigating shooting harpoons with retrievable collection devices into comet surfaces.

To test various possible harpoon designs, NASA scientists have created a six-foot-long ballista (large crossbow) capable of generating precise levels of force. Once the optimal shape and speed of these scientific grapplers is determined, next comes developing the cannon that would deliver them to their icy prey.

Image: NASA

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