January 23, 2010

The End Is Near

Seen here imitating Neo
The White House now has an imminent threat: Apophis. Though the likely hood is small, it is entirely possible that this asteroid may be hitting us relatively soon. While the chances of such impact are small, the consequence is dear. While the odds are in our favor compared to what we regularly deal with, on a cosmic scale the odds are very small for us. That consideration aside, this issue has raised awareness for the need to closely monitor the skies for all such threats. The White House only now really understands that need, and is seeking a way to meet that need.
The country is not entirely stable. We are engaged in two wars far from home. We have a global energy crisis. We have an impending global food crisis. We have a global environmental crisis. Just pouring the money into NASA won't sit well with most voters, despite the relatively cheap investment needed. The WH must justify the expense somehow, and Apophis suits the purpose. Additionally, the WH sees this as an opportunity to look like the good guy, a political booster shot for the whole idea of our government. They can accomplish this by claiming they gave NASA a mandate to start this research years ago. In order to look like the good guy, though, you have to make someone the bad guy.

A zenith view of the International Space Stati...
Image via Wikipedia. And Space!
Using this situation to build prestige will hurt NASA's image. If the WH wants to achieve its goal within the time alloted, they are going to need not just the loyalty of NASA, but that the public be loyal to NASA. By attaching blame to the administration, the WH forces NASA to defend itself any way it can. The have chosen to freely admit that there was a mandate to search for Near Earth Objects. They also raise the point that though the WH did indeed order them to achieve this goal, they did not provide any funds for the job. This has thus far been a frank telling of fact, with no concern for the guilt involved. And yet NASA goes still further, and says that they never asked for funding. NASA always fess's up. They rarely make mistakes, and when they do, they admit it. From Apollo 1 until now, NASA has always been very honest. This gives most people pause. If nothing else, they figure, NASA honestly tries, and usually succeeds, in their endeavors. That can rarely be said about a politician. I think that most people would be willing to give money to NASA to accomplish the goal of cataloging all large NEO's, and developing the technology and experience to do something about it if one of those objects is heading straight for us. All that is needed is for the WH to do the same: Dispassionately lay out the facts. Then together, NASA and the WH can confidently and openly declare what needs to be done, how it will be done, and how much it will cost.

Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr
The backwards 'N' indicates their certainty
As some have said, the end is near. The end of our old ideas of nationalism. Globalization is coming. From many sources does it come. From the WWW and GPS, Google Earth, and global woes. The exploration of space is vital to the future of Humanity. But such exploration must be done as a species, not as nations. And yet it is space exploration that is helping drive globalization. From the WWII and it's subsequent cold war came the Apollo-Soyuz test project. From those two events we have the international space station. And now nature has seen fit to give us a dispassionate global threat, one that enforces cooperation. The end is indeed near. Globalization is coming.

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