Monday, January 11, 2016

The Department of Grim Portents

In effort to distract us from the fact that they have yet to discover aliens or invent a warp drive, NASA has announced that they're establishing the Planetary Defense Coordination Office to protect us from potential threats from space. Because fuck space.
"See that? That's space, and it wants
to kill you. Never forget that."
Come to think of it, I was just as
disappointed when they did. Burn!
Take that, 20 year old movie!
Ok, really the PDCO will only look out for a specific threat, asteroid collisions, but still, that's exactly one more space threat than we've ever bothered with before. The office is an extension of NASA's Near Earth Object Observation program, and in addition to observing and cataloguing potential planet-thumpers (it's a technical term), it will coordinate with FEMA. Oh and if you're wondering where the rag-tag team on a desperate mission to use a nuclear bomb and Aerosmith to divert the asteroid come in, you're going to be disappointed. 

They uh, they won't be doing that. The office is more about giving us fair warning than it is actually defending us against anything. If space wants to kill us, I guess there's not a whole lot anyone can do about it. But hey, it a better plan than anything the dinosaurs came up with.
We'll need the time to organize and
then rig the space ark lottery.
Ok, so realistically we're not going to be able to stop an incoming object and if it's large enough all the FEMA trucks, rapture shelters and bottled water in the world aren't going to save us. So what's the point? Other than the slightly more badass name? Eh. It's mostly organizational. PDCO also coordinates what was a bunch of separate, inefficient NASA offices, and Planetary Defense sounds way better than Inter-Office Team-Building, especially when you're asking Congress for money. Besides, it's not unreasonable that we'd want as much warning as possible. 

Sure , extinction level event, riiiight.
Kiss our loved ones goodbye? Ok,
we'll get right on that Brian...
Or is it? If the Planetary Defense Coordination Office actually does spot a world-ending threat coming in, say one that will wipe us out completely, and then they tell us about it, are we better off? I mean, aren't we going to, you know, explode into a planet-wide orgy of panic and chaos the likes of which we've never seen? I wonder if they shouldn't have some kind of blissful ignorance protocol by which they let us know at the last possible minute. We do, as a species, kind of hate spoilers.

The last time a flaming ball of extinction rained down upon us was sixty-five million years ago so you could say we're kind of due, but then asteroids don't really keep a schedule. We're talking about space rocks flinging around the solar system at tens of thousands of miles per hour so it's just as likely to happen today as it is another million years from now. 
Above: Later today, or next week, the point is you don't know. Enjoy!

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