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This comment is too long to fit as a comment, so I'll write it as a partial answer. Was this really as close as call as they make it out to be if it fell just off the west coast of Africa? Definitions of "just missed" and "close call" are subjective, but we can think about the sensitivity of the final state to the initial state. A simulation would ...


I would say that it is exactly as close a call as they make it out to be, except that they seem to think "missing by fifteen minutes" is a close call when it is not. At orbital speeds, fifteen minutes is a sixth of the way around the earth.

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