Horrible Thought: The Last Unethical Act Ever?

Asteroid coming

From antic conservative talk radio host Chris Plante comes this horrible thought, just expressed on his morning show in Washington D.C. :

How do we know NASA,  in the grand tradition of former official Jon Harpold–quoted as arguing in 2003 that if their flight were doomed by an unrepairable  heat shield flaw, the astronauts on the Space Shuttle Columbia shouldn’t be told of their certain deaths and be allowed to burn up upon re-entry, quickly and humanely— isn’t lying to us about today’s near-miss with an asteroid?

“Maybe the Obama Administration, in its infinite wisdom, has determined that it’s best that we not know the the truth, which is that the asteroid is going to hit the Earth and we’re all going to die,” Plante said.


For the record, if true, this is completely unethical.

I thought you should know.

Thanks for everything.



Spark: Chris Plante

Graphic: Oh, what the hell difference does it make now? I’m headed to Boston to say goodbye to Fenway Park.

25 thoughts on “Horrible Thought: The Last Unethical Act Ever?

  1. There’s no way someonewouldn’t spill the beans.

    Besides which, it’s only a little one – though it’s coming in hot. It might mess up a city, but not a continent, let alone the planet.

    Unlike… well, by the time that’s a concern, we’ll have a working space program and means of dealing with it. “We” meaning humanity. Probably the Chinese.

  2. Zoebrain is right. NASA isn’t the only organization with astronomers who can observe the trajectories of asteroids. It would require a massive conspiracy for all astronomers to decide to keep the public ignorant.

  3. Well, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s doomsday party, but I was listening to an astronomer talk about this asteroid last night. Apparently the makeup of it is largely calcium (if I recall correctly) e.g. limestone — that means it would most likely explode in the atmosphere rather than actually hitting the earth.

    If it comes down on land, it would still be able to take out a city or so, but an ocean strike (and the earth is 3/4 ocean remember) would not be likely to cause a tsunami.

    Don’t we all feel better now? Unless, of course, the astronomer was a part of the conspiracy of silence……..

      • Actually, it seems to me that it could be possible, if unlikely.

        If there were some small chunks of this asteroid that had broken free sometime in the past (say, from tidal effects during a prior transit or from a collision with something else), it is conceivable that they could have been in an ever so slightly different trajectory, traveling ever so slightly faster such that they did hit the Earth just ahead of their parent asteroid.

        Not at all likely, I’d think, but conceivable.

        While we’re talking about cosmic bank shots, perhaps the event that caused this asteroid to calve changed its course infinitesimally instead and made the main asteroid miss Earth by 17k instead of a direct hit.

        It could happen, right?

  4. Oh yeah, another thought — this a serious one.

    Let’s accept that everyone is correct and it will come within 17000 miles of Earth, no more, no less. But still, this is closer than the satellites we have in geosynchronous orbit (about 22k miles, I believe).

    NASA says there is nothing to worry about with our satellites, but really: They haven’t been observing this asteroid all that long. Can they know for certain that it’s going to miss everything? Even if it misses on the way in, could its path be perturbed enough by Earth’s gravity to possibly hit something on the way back out?

    I don’t know what kinds of stuff lives in geosynchronous orbit, but I know it takes a lot more fuel to boost satellites there, so it’d be much harder to replace any such satellite on short notice. Could we, perhaps, lose part of our cell phone network or television network?

    I am in the dangerous position of knowing enough to ask some of the questions, but not knowing enough to be able to generate answers. Oh well, best watch that last rerun of Law & Order whilst I can…….

    • There is a lot of redundant satellite capacity, even if it did hit a satellite. It is extremely unlikely to hit a satellite (picture throwing a dart at a city, and hitting a marble.), but even if it hit one, the craft are so far apart that wouldn’t hit a second. There would be enough other craft to make up for the lost satellite. Communications though the one lost would be interrupted, but the data traffic would be quickly rerouted.

  5. Well… NASA was right this time. It should be pointed out, though, that even if DA14 had struck the Earth, it would have been nothing like that horrendeous picture you now have posted on the margins of your site, Jack. At 150 feet across, it’s more a large meteor than an asteroid. Could it have done great damage if it had struck a populated area? Yes! Would it have killed millions? No doubt. The end of the world? Errr… no.

    Remember; the “dinosaur killer” of 65 million years ago was at least SIX MILES in diameter. That small planet pictured as crashing into the Earth would have had to have been roughly the size of the dwarf planet Ceres, which is six HUNDRED miles in diameter. That would sterilize the Earth, all right, but it still wouldn’t destroy it. DA14 wasn’t anywhere near the threat level of those or, for that matter, some other “earth grazer” asteroids that orbit the sun on a path that occassionally takes them close to our planet.

    We survived DA14. We survived the (attendant?) meteors that DID come in in Russia, California and Cuba. Scary; but no one was killed and damage was slight. Eventually, though, something bad WILL happen. Let’s just hope by then we have the space capability necessary to divert or destroy such an object before the worst happens.

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