The abrupt ending of the Mayan calendar in December of 2012 has long been assumed to be an astrological catastrophic event for Earth (http://survive2012.com). More recently, the Bible Code has produced passages/matrixes that seem to announce a comet impact in 2012 (http://www.satansrapture.com/nasa2012.htm). [JWR Adds: Beware! Not Biblically supported doctrine at that site!] There are said to be two conflicting matrixes, once saying the Earth is annihilated, the other that the comet is annihilated. I realize what most people think of prophecy (unreliable, to say the least), so let’s take a more scientific look at this, and consider that if there was such an asteroid or comet coming and our government knew this, what would the government actually do about it?
Before I start, I should make sure that some key words are defined. An asteroid is a celestial body found especially between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter (asteroid belt). It is theorized that a planet, or beginnings of planet once existed between Mars and Jupiter, but that the extreme gravity of mighty and gigantic Jupiter busted it up into pieces. A meteor is a particle of matter in the solar system that are directly observable only by their incandescence from frictional heating on entry into the atmosphere (visible during Earth atmosphere entry as they usually burn up). Once a meteor hits the ground, anything you find of it is a meteorite. A comet is celestial body that consists of a fuzzy head usually surrounding a bright nucleus, and that when its orbit is near the sun develops a long tail which points away from the sun (has a big tail).
The idea or realization of large meteors striking the Earth and doing great damage is largely new to 20th Century thinking. The first proven meteorite creator is in Arizona http://www.meteorcrater.com/, http://www.barringercrater.com/science/ and in the early 1900s the owner went bankrupt searching and drilling for the meteorite as proof, when it is now believed it exploded on impact (sending tiny bits everywhere, thus leaving no large meteorite to be found). The famous and mysterious Tungsuka impact in Siberia of 1908 http://newsfromrussia.com/society/2002/06/29/31473.html is now recognized to be a meteor impact which completely exploded above the ground (thus leaving trees dead center under the blast still standing). Finally of course there is the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, which is believed to have killed 70% of all life on Earth at that time.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/06/0617_020617_fossilleaves.html You may be surprised to learn that this was not the only such mass extinction http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/diapsids/extinction.html, and there have be more. However, it was really the spectacular 1994 impact of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into the planet Jupiter which ended the speculation about asteroids or comets impacting into planets. http://www.solarviews.com/eng/impact.htm
As this article points out, one look at our very pock-marked moon should be an indication asteroids we have and will likely continue to be hit both the moon and the Earth (erosion over time, from water, helps hide the Earth’s wounds). http://www.thesahara.net/asteroid_2002_nt7.htm. The results to us of such an impact would of course be disastrous, depending on the size, speed, and make-up of the asteroid or comet. http://www.sandia.gov/media/comethit.htm And also see.. http://www.pibburns.com/catastro/impacts.htm. However, just like with nuclear winter, if you survive the initial blast and any generated tsunamis (serious concern since Earth is 2/3 water of course), and stay underground, out of the potentially abusive weather, and wait for everything to settle out of the atmosphere, you can survive. But let’s focus on the issue of stopping the comet or asteroid in the first place…
In the past 25 years, Hollywood has taken a few takes on this issue of stopped an inbound asteroid or comet, and the work they did is worthy of consideration as a starting point. What I am trying to do is look at the facts, and then employ the “what would I do” method of backward engineering government decisions. In the recent movie remake of Pearl Harbor, Dan Akroyd, playing the role of an intelligence officer, is asked why he thinks Japan would hit Pearl Harbor when he has no hard evidence. He replies, “Well, it’s what I would do”. Such will be my approach here.
The 1979 movie “Meteor” starring Sean Connery introduced the concept of using nuclear warheads to try and destroy an incoming meteor (or asteroid actually, before it hits the Earth’s atmosphere). The movie Armageddon in 1996 took the thinking to the next level, realizing that surface explosions would be insufficient to break up an asteroid, and thus presented the idea of astronauts going to the asteroid and then “drilling” the nukes into the asteroid as the best approach to bust it up, or into two pieces at least. This production, staring Bruce Willis, was certainly exciting, but a little too fantastic. The most realistic of the movies made, IMHO, would be Deep Impact, released in 1998. The primary plan was similar to the Armageddon plot, which of course is simply too fantastic and unnecessary, but it was the government’s contingency plan C which really interested me. This was that if the astronaut mission failed (Plan A), and if a bunch of ICBMs launched when it was near Earth (Plan B) failed, there would be a national lottery for one million people (none over age 50 and 200,000 pre-selected government officials and scientists of course) to survive in a Ark made up of man made caves drilled into Missouri limestone with enough supplies to last 2 years (Plan C – “the rules of 3” right from Ragnar Benson, author of The Survival Retreat and others). Wages and prices were frozen, and people were made to “go to work and pay your bills”. Martial Law was declared and people were to be home at night. “Hoarding” was not allowed (though I still think that is a term not really defined as to where the line is, and the term is used as if people just seem to understand where that line is). There was an optimistic plan A and B which kept people going, and hoping, and in the movie that seemed to work and hold off the riots, though they did show characters putting up bars over their windows, meaning there were some problems. Other countries were left to do as they could.
Now let’s look at the facts, real life. NASA currently operates the Near Earth Object Program, who’s stated purpose is to identify 90% (highest they think they can get to) of the objects in space that may come into contact with the Earth. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov If you have never seen this site, take a look. Check out Close Approaches and Impact Risk in particular, but you will have to brush up on your math to remember how very large numbers are presented to the powers format with the little number superscript (i.e. thousand = 1000 = 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 = 103). In Close Approaches, note that a Lunar Distance (LD) is the average distance from the Earth to moon (~384,000 km or ~240,000 miles). So if an asteroid was going to pass 16 LDs from Earth, that would be 16 times the distance from the Earth to Moon.
Now before you laugh this off as such an event being less likely than you winning the Powerball lottery, you had better take a look at this link: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news149.html That one in going to miss the Earth by only 5.7 times the diameter of the Earth in 2029. That asteroid also has a diameter of 320 meters or over 1040 feet. How much damage could that do? Well let’s look back to the damage caused by the Arizona meteorite which was only 150 feet in diameter (<50 meters) http://www.barringercrater.com/effects/. We are probably talking about wiping out the better part of Texas here or worse. Note that the article says this is BELOW the level of geosynchronous Earth satellites. One more thing about the Powerball lottery; Why do people pay money to play something they know they have a less than 1 in hundred million chance of winning? Answer: Because the payoff is so large. Now reverse that logic as to asteroids; Why should you worry about the very very small chance a large asteroid or comet will collide with the Earth? Because the payoff is so large if it does.
Now I want to insert the “what would I do” if I was with NASA. My very first comment is that you don’t need a manned mission to nuke an asteroid or comet headed for Earth. There are two methods to “drill” a nuke into an asteroid. First would be to land a probe and have it land on the asteroid that had such automated capacity to drill a nuke in. I will note that this part was done back in 2001. Remember the landing on Eros? (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1148071.stm and http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/solar_system/59734
The second way makes more sense to me and is actually easier to do IMHO. Here you want to punch a nuke into the asteroid so you can just aim the satellite right into it. Torpedo it. The trick though is developing a nuke that would survive the harsh impact and then blow up at depth inside the steel or rocky asteroid or comet. The military calls these “bunker busting” weapons, originally made from old cannon barrels, and non-nuclear variants are nothing new at all, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_bunker_buster. It is interesting to note that exactly such a nuke has been in the research and development works of the US Pentagon for some time now. It’s called a RNEP for Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/rnep.htm ). This remains an issue of Congressional funding http://www.ananuclear.org/rnep.html Clearly using a penetrating bunker buster type tactical nuclear bomb could work for an asteroid or comet. Rather than going through the difficulties of a landing on an asteroid or comet and drilling, we could merely proceed with the presumably easier task of merely intercepting it (torpedoing it). This was exactly what the 2005 Deep Impact probe did by hitting an asteroid at 23,000 mph, a mere 200 feet off its target on a city-sized asteroid.
It is clear IMHO that scientists are considering this method for dealing with an inbound asteroid or comet. They even call this entire line of thinking deep impact.
Billions have now been spent developing exactly the technologies needed to deal with an incoming asteroid or comet. The question is, was there merely done a precautionary science, or do they have a reason to keep this research moving along. Consider it. What would you do, if you knew?
One final thought: As in the movie Deep Impact would the government build a gigantic underground shelter to house people for this period time as a backup plan? How could they hide such an operation of such scale? Perhaps by building it for a different purpose (cover story, or perhaps real alternative)? Where is the government spending billions hollowing out a mountain right now? Answer: Yucca Mountain NV. Why? For spent nuclear storage, officially. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/yucca/ And what is the proposed completion date before this becomes operational? I’m not joking. They say “2012 or later.” See: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,165203,00.html, http://ocrwm.doe.gov/ymp/index.shtml, and http://www.nsc.org/ehc/yuccamt.HTM
Here are two other sites of interest:
Meteor showers http://home.att.net/~thehessians/asteroidstrike.html
Meteor Impact game http://www.barringercrater.com/game/
– Rourke http://groups.yahoo.com/group/survivalretreat