Friday, March 22, 2013

NASA: In the event of an asteroid heading for Earth? We're totally boned.

From Reuters ("Large asteroid heading to Earth? Pray, says NASA," March 19, 2013):
NASA has found and is tracking about 95 percent of the largest objects flying near Earth, those that are .62 miles or larger in diameter.

"An asteroid of that size, a kilometer or bigger, could plausibly end civilization," White House science advisor John Holdren told legislators at the same hearing.

But only about 10 percent of an estimated 10,000 potential "city-killer" asteroids, those with a diameter of about 165 feet have been found, Holdren added.

What I find most tiresome about national and world politics is how so much of it is just a lot of petty and short-sighted wang-wagging over crap that either has no bearing on my day at all, or that I end up having to deal with in my own life without any assistance from the government, while our leaders largely ignore the few issues on which I would actually find myself depending on higher and wiser authorities to take the lead on. I don't mean to imply that the economy, health care, and social inequality are in any way trivial. But if I'm being honest, the issues that most keep me up at night are, in order, climate change, peak oil, and the ever-looming threat of nuclear war. Those first two scare me because I recognize that I am, realistically, entirely powerless to affect them, and everything I've read suggests that they will inevitably make the world a much worse place to live in, probably within my lifetime. The nuclear threat is, admittedly, probably less likely to impact my life than gun violence in this country. But these are all potentially apocalyptic concerns that, frankly, I have zero confidence in our leaders to solve, as they have consistently demonstrated that they are basically at as much of a loss as me over how to deal with them, and, when they are not altogether living in denial, they are probably just praying that somebody else will come along to save the world.

I guess I can add these "city-killer" asteroids to the list, as another terrifying prospect to occupy my nightmares, which we are evidently so totally unprepared for. Again, probably less likely to impact my life than gun violence, but also, again, something entirely outside my control. I mean, only 10 percent are being tracked? In other words, we would most likely never even see it coming. And what are we doing to address that? Very little and very slowly, according to NASA:
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden estimated that it would take until 2030 to catalog 90 percent of the near-Earth objects between 140 meters and 1 kilometer in width, as mandated by Congress. [...]

"If it's coming in three weeks ... pray," Bolden said. "The reason I can't do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off." (NBC News)

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