If you are reading this, plummeting space junk has not pulverized you. Yeah, you!
Earlier this week, NASA officials reported that a 6-ton atmospheric research satellite is tumbling to Earth at a roughly, oh, a gazillion miles per hour and could strike at any minute. I'm not surprised that this is news to you. The mass media have been oddly restrained considering the 12,000-pound mass of fiery death hurdling toward us. And these are people who whip up mass hysteria about far more improbable doomsday scenarios involving Mayan prophesies or a Michele Bachmann presidency.
Instead, the biggest topic on most news shows this past week was about was how Two and a Half Men killed off Charlie Sheen's character. If only the writers had him die under a school-bus sized hunk of molten titanium that dropped from the sky instead of being splattered by a plain ol' Parisian commuter train …
You think at least one broadcast would have dug up a "disaster expert" for us. There's only a few hundred of them out there, unshaven and panhandling, since Irene-ageddon. Think of the economic stimulus if we were all told to again have our "to go" bags ready, this time not just with a 7-day supply of Power Bars but Kevlar helmets and asbestos undies. Instead, the little the media did report consisted of statistics about how unlikely it is falling space-age metals will permanently dent your noodle. (For the record, the odds are 1 in 31 trillion, which is exactly the same chance of survival TV critics, gave Two and a Half Men … eight seasons ago.)
Contrast this to 1979. That's when word came that the space station Skylab would come crashing down. Church attendance rose. Media outlets offered rewards for recovered debris. One of my elementary school buddies and I, armed with binoculars and wearing plastic replica Major League Baseball batting helmets for protection, sat on the steps in my front yard, peering through the July leaf canopy looking for flaming streaks in the sky. This week, when my kids learned about the falling satellite, they couldn't even muster excitement over the possibility of a wayward chunk causing an early school dismissal.
This is all further proof of how bored Americans have become with outer space. After centuries of fantasizing about advanced civilizations with sexy multi-boobed aliens and living on Mars, we boldly went where no man has gone before and turned up … rocks and gases. As a result, this summer NASA put the Space Shuttle out of its misery and Hollywood hasn't considered putting a new "Star Trek" series on the tube in years.
Today, Gene Roddenberry turns in his grave; the rest of America just turns over and hit the snooze button.