Another Doomsday Asteroid
April 13, 2029. Ooh, and it's a Friday.
At 4:36 am Greenwich Mean Time, a 25-million-ton, 820-ft.-wide asteroid called 99942 Apophis [SG-1 geek alert!] will slice across the orbit of the moon and barrel toward Earth at more than 28,000 mph. The huge pockmarked rock, two-thirds the size of Devils Tower in Wyoming, will pack the energy of 65,000 Hiroshima bombs -- enough to wipe out a small country or kick up an 800-ft. tsunami.
Wouldn't it be interesting if it fell on Devil's Tower, Wyoming?
What's really interesting is how, once again, reality follows Hollywood (cell phones inspired by Star Trek, illegal detention and torture inspired by The Siege. But, hey, where're the damn flying cars?)
The asteroid will most likely near miss us in 2029, but if it gets caught in a "gravitational keyhole," it could swing back around for a direct hit seven years later. This has prompted a call to action to do some Hollywood space cowboy antics and blow it off course with cool Space Age technology before it gets too close, a la Armageddon and Deep Impact.
However, it's not a planet killer, though it would be a major inconvenience. As far as can be determined at this time, it would probably slam into the Pacific Ocean, causing 50 ft. tsunamis on California's coast for an hour. But I live in Colorado, so who cares?
Anyway, the good news is the damage would only cost an estimated $400 billion, less than half of what the Iraq War will ultimately cost. And take far fewer lives. And, really, enterprising Americans ought to be able to make that work for them. (Or should we start calling such enterprising Americans "Lexluthorians?")
A quote by Steven Chesley of the Near Earth Object program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. confirms for me what I have long suspected: there are well-stocked and comfy bunkers deep in the Earth that a short list of people, including NASA scientists, will occupy as they slowly turn into Morlocks while waiting for the surface of the Earth to restore itself with a small band of surface-dwelling humans.
When NASA does discover a potentially threatening asteroid like Apophis, it has no mandate to decide whether, when or how to take action. "We're not in the mitigation business," Chesley says.
It's like he can't wait to eat attractive blond people.