Put Some Gay In Your Day, Dallas!

A Tale Of Two Asteroids

My understanding of scientific achievement in this and the last century is pretty much limited to having watched the moon landing in 1969 and Apollo 13.  I saw Armageddon a couple of times twenty years ago, and I sat through Meteor, but only once about forty years ago because Natalie Wood was in it.

There was a classmate of mine with whom I shared great debates, or so we thought, about the Apollo space program. He, the son of one of the city’s most prominent doctors, argued in favor of the advancements being made through the work of the NASA scientists that would ultimately go beyond the space race and improve the quality of life for all of us here on Earth.  

“Oh, pish posh! We need to spend that money to improve conditions for people living in poverty today.” So I would respond, from my budding and myopic idealism and the influence of Mother, one of the relatively few Democrats at that time in that part of Texas. (Daddy had no real interest in the subject as it didn’t have anything to do with the oil “bidness.”)

Even today I find it interesting that all the money collected from taxpayers in what so many still insist is a “Christian nation,” despite the First Amendment, paid for a program named for one of Greek mythology’s twelve Olympians rather than one of Christendom’s twelve apostles. But then I suppose a high profile space program called Project Peter just wouldn’t sound quite right.

This week, NASA landed a spacecraft on the asteroid Dimorphos (there’s some more Greek for you).  Well, more of a crash landing. It’s part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which has nothing whatsoever to do with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system. A younger version of myself would have argued that the $325,000,000 spent on hitting Dimorphos to see what effect the collusion would have on its orbit around a larger asteroid called Didymos, as well as the path of Didymos itself, could better have been spent improving things on Earth today—or at least the bus lines in Dallas.  

Apparently, the NASA scientists saw the same movies I did and are eager to avoid another mass extinction event. The last one—the fifth one in our planet’s history—was probably the result of a large asteroid slamming into Earth, namely in Mexico, which could be used by jaded politicians as further evidence of the need to build a wall. It occurred about 65,000,000 years ago, and considering the frequency of these kinds of happenings, we’re due for another one any day now.

Neither Dimorphos nor Didymos is anywhere near the size of the Mexican asteroid (see how easy it is to work that into the conversation) that wiped out the dinosaurs, but they are relatively close to Earth—just 7,000,000 miles away. If the Moon is next door, then these little asteroids are down the street at Whole Foods. Let’s just hope they aren’t mad about our having called on them without invitation and won’t spin right down here to pay us a little visit of their own.

Seriously though, it really is amazing that we have the intelligence and the means to play target practice in the cosmos and then measure what our action has caused. An external nudge might shift the trajectory one way or the other.  

With less than six weeks to go until the midterm elections, the two major political parties are trying to nudge things their way, too. Will it be a jump to the left? Or a step to the right? Or just more of the last couple of years, with our knees in tight?

The smart money seems to be betting that Congress will split, with the Democrats holding the Senate and the Republicans taking the House. But that smart money has lost in the recent past.  

What happens in November may or may not be kind of a political Armageddon—only time can tell that for sure. But for those who want very much to avoid an unwanted pelvic thrust, this may be the time to do a little nudging of their own.

Armageddon was the highest grossing movie of 1998. The plot, such as it is, involves a huge asteroid heading for Earth with the NASA plan to save humanity being to send a bunch of oil drillers to deep core drill into the asteroid, drop a nuclear bomb in, and blow it all up. Bruce Willis, naturally, heads the team of drillers.  

It seems inconceivable today that Hollywood would make a movie where oil drillers save mankind. But if Daddy had lived long enough to see it, I’m pretty sure he would have loved it.