Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Sky is Falling

If you are reading this, plummeting space junk has not pulverized you. Yeah, you!

satellite crash artEarlier 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.

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  1. Exactly. Dirt + gas = boredom. We've got plenty of both, right here at home. But throw in some space boobs... NOW you're talking.

    Basically, NASA needs a space boob initiative to capture the public's imagination. Thanks, Kevin, for bringing light to this important issue.

  2. All that being said, if there were a public company out there right now whose focus was cleaning up space debris (there is a lot of it up there), I'd invest in a heartbeat. Now THAT'S a growth industry!

  3. Holy flaming space dust Batman! I hadn't heard about this and I don't live in the States and could care less about Two and a Half Men (unless they are zombies roaming around my city). At least we can all rest easy knowing that scientists will pinpoint the landing point to a 6,000 mile zone within 2 hours of crashing...

  4. I used to wear my "I Survived Skylab" t-shirt proudly. Those were the days, ayuh. I remember the thrill of knowing meteorites and our space litter was all hurtling towards us at a gazillion mph. Who needed caffeine when all that was going on?

  5. In a few years there may be more media excitement about this:

    Chances are small that it will hit us, but you never know...

    Time to colonize Mars!

  6. Yaaawn.
    What're you talking about?

  7. What we need is a space Sanford and Sons to protect us. Also, space boobs was the name of my college new wave band.

  8. I was quite surprised how little the media made of it, since they seem to take much less newsworthy items and blow them all out of proportion.

  9. Yeah.

    I didn't even hear about this.


    Off to eat a pop tart.

  10. I think the key is getting this space junk a Facebook profile, then have it bitch about all the changes going on with its feed, and then maybe it would garner some of the attention it richly deserves.

  11. My husband casually mentioned something about it at the dinner table.....chunks the size of a school bus or something like that. I immediately checked our homeowner's policy, but found we are S.O.L. for this sort of catastrophe.

    Definitely deserved a FB alert!

  12. Thanks for the update! I totally missed this. I was wondering how Charlie died.

  13. But they did just find a particle that travels faster than the speed of light. Time Travel is about to be the new space travel!


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