from December 22, 2006
In its November 17 edition, the esteemed British rag The Guardian reported that “A huge asteroid is on a catastrophic collision course with Earth” and, it added, “mankind (sic) is poised to go the way of the dinosaurs.”
That is the bad news. The good news, our devoted readers will be pleased to read, is that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (known to the multitudes as NASA), is poised to save the day.
As I write, NASA is already drawing up a recipe for landing an astronaut on some available asteroid that is moving through our galactic neighborhood at, say, 30K mph. The purpose of such a project is to find out if humans could develop techniques that would deflect such a menacing space object from its appointed rounds.
A NASA spokesperson is quoted as saying, “Being able to have astronauts go out there and sort of poke [an asteroid] with a stick would be scientifically valuable as well as demonstrate human capabilities.” The spokesperson, Chris McKay, admitted that the stick under discussion has not yet been identified, let alone constructed, though Matt Genge, a space expert in London, has it figured that an object “with the mass, acceleration and thrust of a small car” would be able to push a billion-ton asteroid off its earth-bound course in a matter of 75 days.
Other venerables, including, of course, the MJTT, have also been pondering this frightful exigency.
Though MJTT’s own specific plans are always kept close to the vest, I can report that we have eliminated the usual possibilities from our growing but already extensive list. We have concluded, for example, that a stick, however large, would not do the trick. Nor are we encouraged by the thought that the bombs mankind (sic) has stashed away in its drenched and rusty silos can be useful in other than their intended purpose.
No. We MJTT fellows are plowing a different field, and with a different blade. Though I am not in a position to divulge the particulars of our late-afternoon sherry talks, I can offer this hint: we are giving considerable and serious thought to the very live possibility that Sir Isaac Newton’s law or laws of gravity can be, if not repealed, at least amended.
And the beauty of this tactic is that it would not take a big stick.