Current Trends

Asteroid to pass as close to earth as space debris ever has, meteor strikes Russia without warning injuring thousands, space rock only noted by amateur astronomer; amid religious and other fears these incidents are signs of a coming apocalypse, an intuitive sign something cosmic is out to get us or perhaps we are headed for a cataclysmic event similar to the one that eventually brought on the extinction of the dinosaurs, there is a legitimate concern about who is, or perhaps it should be isn’t, watching all that space junk. From rock to old pieces of satellites, parts of space shuttles once belonging to any number of countries with current or past space programs, to trash, recent occurrences are evidence of but a fraction of the detritus swirling in Earth’s orbit. More disturbing are the changes in America’s space program, the retirement of all shuttles, Americans hitching a ride with Russian cosmonauts to the international space station, creation of space worthy vehicles going to private, commercial developers who intend to sell space tours for profit. Sure NASA still exists, still has projects on the go, its latest Mars rover a resounding success; however, not only has there been a change in goals, priorities and thousands of pink slips upon the closing of the shuttle program, there has been a decline in NASA’s budget, particularly as politicians duke it out on capitol hill over spending. This coupled with current cosmic happenings leading to the logical question what are we missing that could be a potential threat and exactly how much more of a threat could it become if no one diligently has an eye on what transpires just beyond the skies. Additionally considering what has already taken place, isn’t it time, perhaps long past time, we had an early warning system to alert all global leaders to a possible cosmic threat; isn’t it time we had some sort of plan to stave off astrological impacts that could spell the extinction of the human race, because just how many chances are we going to get before at minimum people are killed by cosmic impact in, if we’re lucky, only a semi populated area. 

And while NASA boasts having mapped 90 something percent of the debris that could result in the end of sentient life on, earth and assure people, despite seeing possibilities to the contrary, the sky is not falling, those assurances conflict with what NASA also said about not having the resources to track every piece of space garbage, specifically asteroids. Further people in Russia still had no warning at all even possessing their own space program; neither is it likely no one was informed because they couldn’t get through to the proper officials there. That particular astounding light show was a meteor. Next if NASA has indeed done so much mapping, has the situation as under control as they seem to claim, why was a Spanish amateur astronomer the first one to note the presence of DA14, the office building sized asteroid making so much news for passing so close to earth? Obviously depending on where you live around the globe, you’re going see things differently in the sky; you may see things folks on the other side of it do not, you may see things before someone residing in a different location. But regardless of what NASA or other countries space programs are not tracking shouldn’t a weather satellite, global positioning satellite have caught wind of something so close and notified appropriate governments?  Why then are 3 astronauts and rocket scientists now raising money to launch their own detection and early warning system to track asteroids near us? Here it seems is where the United States government has made a crucial error, instead of allocating money no longer supporting the shuttle program to things like asteroid tracking, uncle Sam has elected to pocket the money for other projects, is too busy fighting over budgets to see the way clear to taking care of other business, would rather give tax breaks to owners of jets and yachts, than aid children’s nutrition so it hardly comes as a surprise, they have no patients or funds for insuring we all have a planet to live on, are notified of an impending threat to not only our very existence but that of everyone and everything else that calls earth home.

Outside the remote likelihood of a species ending phenomenon, awareness needed to prevent such a thing, taking into account our planet’s increasing population awareness is key when we could be dealing with a catastrophe effecting as many as millions of people demonstrated poignantly by the fireballs seen weeks apart over California. These things were sighted over a densely populated area causing slightly frantic people to dial their local space center, no doubt more than a few calling 911; had they been larger or different in composition, i.e. asteroid vs. meteor, defunct satellite, it could have meant death or injury to entire cities rather than an interesting light show reminiscent of our long held UFO obsession.  Never mind trillions plus in property damage, highway decimation to say nothing of utter panic and chaos, indeed the cause for nearly all damage in Russia was not the meteor itself, hitting the ground below but a shockwave crumbling buildings and turning most glass into flying projectiles. Continuing we have seen the devastating results of cause and effect natural disasters like the earthquake triggered tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2004 or the same scenario that  caused the meltdown of a Japanese nuclear plant in 2011. Life altering moments that showcase dooms day scenarios of a different kind; what we now know followed the earthquake destabilizing the Fukushima nuclear plant remains a cautionary tale to less prepared nations in dealing with nuclear material. Why is that important, nuclear waste disposal sites worldwide could be compromised should there ever be an impact too close to one, nuclear plants housed in one of the most prepared nations still became the definition of an ecological hazard under extreme circumstances; for ourselves, U.S. nuclear plants are aging past safe usage dates, as years have gone by areas near these type of power plants has grown while evacuation plans have not been updated to account for the safety of that many people, said impacts could easily set off mud and rock slides, deep cracks in the earth mimicking a seismic event, sink hole, exposing nuclear waste to plant, animal and human populations at minimum poisoning food and water supplies. Relatedly some or all military arsenals may currently be at risk because while they have gone through preparedness surrounding ground weather probabilities, foreign attacks of various kinds, despite multiple Hollywood interpretations of how at least our nation would respond to a real life version of the sky falling, America has not, the world has not suffered an attack to know if measures for known dangers are truly effective forget the unknown. Too often our government has a history of being caught with its pants down. Simultaneously what the Indonesia 2004 incident put in the spotlight is how quickly lives can be lost if you’re unprepared, if you are in the open in a substandard building, tourist destinations featuring grass huts, beach bungalows authentic native housing spell completely unsafe measuring up to natures wrath. 

Bringing us to another concern for developed nations when it comes to cosmic, planet wide threats, our protective eyes too must be on the third world, developing nations who are struggling to feed their populations, provide medical care, fight disease, who lack consistent clean water, live sans reliable electricity, who can in no way monitor or prepare for an impending global disaster or for a localized astrological happenings like what surprised Russia. Compounding their issues are a lack of strong, people centered governments like we have here replaced by warlords and religious extremists in areas such as subSaharan Africa. At the same time these areas and even some in more developed parts of the world, China for example, have areas where people live in extreme poverty, building codes are nonexistent or a luxury to the poor, leaving such persons vulnerable to natural disasters whether they come from the weather on the ground or objects in the heavens, when mud huts with dirt floors collapse, shanti towns, tenements trap persons under demolished building pieces, dwellings are easily engulfed by a ball of flaming rock, can’t withstand shockwaves generated by meteors, other impacts from pace . Also jeopardizing lives, millions living in refugee camps fleeing conflicts in, again war torn Africa, trying to escape violence in Syria surviving in tents, shanties sprawling in open fields creating human targets and handy projectiles in the event of any natural phenomenon particularly the one mentioned here; further we provide food and various kinds of humanitarian aid to these areas so why not this too, in the interest of all who live on the globe?   

Arguments can be made media is propagandizing natural occurrences to get people to tune in to their news program on the edge of their seats, or that as technology, knowledge increase we are encountering more of what was always there, just beyond our atmosphere, just beyond the night sky; independent of which viewpoint holds the most truth, there do appear to be more objects making contact with earth. Also to be kept in mind, to ward off panic, prevent overloaded 911 systems and potential mayhem, speculations about UFO’s, aliens from outer space, scientists from NASA or other places routinely report the falling to earth of old satellites, other space junk in part to reassure the public there is no threat, confirm we are not hosting, about to be invaded by little green, gray men from Mars or elsewhere. Regardless of which version of chicken little-ism you believe or don’t, governments globally need to be prepared for cosmic events and keeping an eye on their less developed neighbors; most would be astounded we don’t already have early warning systems in place, that we aren’t coordinating with countries that at least already have space programs to ensure the continued existence of our planet. Why isn’t there a push for a global grid warning system to detect object threats; why isn’t there a push for international cooperation between non- hostile nations in alerting everyone to potential object threats?  Here is what Newt Gingrich should have been selling to keep NASA’s budget where it is, to keep it from shrinking into a little known obscure program, not lunar mining, not colonies there by the end of his second term to keep kids interested in math and science. Part of caring for the planet too is making sure something the size of an office building, a football field or larger doesn’t destroy it as well as us; thinking now to avoid dying later.