March 20, 2013, 3:36 PM —
Image credit: Flickr/Navicore
Asked on Tuesday what Earthlings could do if they learned that a large asteroid which could destroy civilization was due to collide with our planet in a few weeks, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said, “The answer to you, is, if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.”
Not very comforting, to be sure. But based on many years of observation, I'd say we probably stand a better chance soliciting intervention from the deity of our choice than letting Congress get involved in defending the planet from asteroids.
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee has held hearings over the past two days so members could feign concern over the prospect of asteroids colliding with Earth and lecture NASA for falling behind on a congressional mandate to detect and track meteors large enough to wipe out a city or more.
But NASA's supposed to do this with no extra money. From Bloomberg:
Congress asked NASA to find and track 90 percent of the asteroids that are 140 meters or greater in size by 2020. Under current funding, the goal won’t be met until 2030, Bolden said Tuesday.
“Smaller objects, such as the recent impact in Russia will always be difficult to detect and provide adequate warning,” Bolden said. But “if you really want to find and detect near-Earth objects early enough that we can do something, you need to have something in space,” and that would cost billions of dollars, he said.
The thing is, Bolden also assured lawmakers that a large asteroid colliding with Earth "is not an issue we should worry about near-term." I tend to believe him, based on the track record of no asteroids having destroyed civilization since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. But the meteor that crashed in Russia last month, injuring 1,200 people struck with flying glass and other objects from the impact, has given many people some concern about what else may fall on us from space.
It also has given some members of Congress an opportunity to use this remote threat to grandstand and score political points. Because if NASA isn't going to do anything to stop these killer asteroids, Congress will!
Look for the following "solutions" to be floated by our political leaders:
* Create a strict, no-exceptions policy against asteroid immigration
* Build a large fence around the planet
* Coordinate with NRA to have all gun owners fire simultaneously on any asteroid entering Earth's atmosphere
* Pray harder
* Tax cut