Wired got wired into NASA’s Ames Vertical Gun Range (AVGR) for a feature on Uncle Sam’s planetary impact simulator. (I was hoping to read NASA’s plans for shooting at asteroids looking to ruin humanity’s day but at least we know what that would look like.) Hi-tech, schmi-tech. Gunpowder baby! “At the far end of the barrel, a gunpowder explosion is used to compress hydrogen gas to as much as 1 million times atmospheric pressure. The compressed gas gets released and sent down the launch tube, firing a projectile pellet at speeds between 7,000 and 15,000 mph. The shot enters the cylinder, in which low pressure or even a vacuum is maintained, and hits . . .
a dish filled with different material that simulates whatever planetary body researchers are studying. High-speed cameras mounted on windows around the cylinder record the impact aftermath at up to 1 million frames per second.” Pah. More recent cameras can record at 200m frames per second. No wonder we’re behind the Russians in the race to put a man on the Moon. Mars. Wherever.