I am listening to My Favorite Universe by Neil deGrasse Tyson as I drive back and forth to the city. Highly recommended.
So, Neil, as I will call him, says that the earth was bombarded with asteroids and comets in the first 600 million years of its life. The planet was so hot that life was impossible. The comets left most of the water we have here now. After this period,
the rate of collision slowed.
We now should expect a catastrophic collision once every 100 millions years. The last was 60 million years ago, so we're due in about 40 million years but you never know. That collision was about the equivalent of a billion hydrogen bombs. We get smaller impacts about every 100 years and the last was 1908 over Siberia. That was the equivalent of a hundreds of hydrogen bombs. It went off in the atmosphere. If it were to happen over a city in the same way, there would be quite a bit of loss of life.
Given the extent of the risk, it is hard to imagine how spending more money on looking for these things is not cost effective.
Not only do we have to look for them, we have to develop ways to land a machine on one and use that machine to nudge the object out of its collision course with earth.
If someone had proposed a very expensive study to find out the impact of volcanic ash on airplane engines a few year ago, a study that cost 20 million dollars, it would have been very cost effective to fund it.
Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter in 1994. Each one of the 12 parts of that comet was worse than the object that made all the life bigger than a bread box on the planet extinct 60 million years ago. If there were dinosaurs on Jupiter in 1994, there ain't none now.
Suppose we find an asteroid on it's way. We have some time. The people of earth are united as never before in history against a common enemy.
If we can get a craft on it and start nudging it, we only have to get it to move a centimeter a week for a a year or two, and we'll be in the clear.
But we thought we knew how to plug up a leaky oil well. And maybe we don't. So maybe the craft fails.
The asteroid is still coming. We know that the impact itself will be local. 99% of the loss of life will be from starvation as the sun will not shine for 3 or 4 years. We have some stores of food around. There are pumps to get ground water to the surface that could operate with a generator of a few years. Some people will be just fine.
Humanity is no longer united as it once was. Now, we are in the worst zero sum game in history.
There isn't enough food and water and safe shelter for any nation, only the elite of some nations, or anyone who can commandeer enough bags of rice and get them to a safe place and wait for impact. They will sit tight eating rice while the rest of the world starves.
Oh, I'm sure the happazard efforts to track objects is enough. We don't need any actual government action in advance to work on the process of nudging objects... I mean, we might be fine for hundreds of years, maybe millions of years. Or maybe not.
While we're out there looking for asteroids and comets that might mess up earth, we should check and see if there are any icy comets that could be nudge to collide intentionally into Mars. Maybe it is a good idea to try to recreate the conditions that produced the "soup of life" that existed on earth from 0 to 600 million years, as best we can which is orders of magnitude less than what the early solar system could do. The point would be to make Mars hotter and wetter so that when we get ready to go there in a serious way in 300 years, we have already built up a supply of water and put more material into the atmosphere.
Here is what I would think would determine if this is a good idea:
1) Would it work? Will we be saying, 300 years from now, "We COULD be terraforming Mars now if it weren't for those assholes in the 21st century crashing all those comets into Mars and messing it up." Or, "Well, that was an exercise in futility: Mars still sucks. Let's go to Titan."
2) Is it immoral? I kind of think that morality is only for living things. If we leave Mars alone in its pristine state as if it were like an old growth forest and think we learned the lesson of the rape of the earth, I think we learned the wrong lesson about earth and biodiversity.
If it were to work but be somehow immoral, we can always belly-ache and act contrite like we do now about how we stole America from the Indians... that was terrible, terrible. I never would have done it like that. So, where should we go on vacation this summer? Drive to Oregon?
We can always do that hypocritical crap later. We wouldn't want to miss out on a near miss comet full of water when we get lucky enough to have one we could plop down on Mars for later.
Any, with satellites in orbit around Mars to video that sucker, I think we would finally capture the public's imagination about space exploration. We are not doing that one small step for man, one giant step for mankind bullshit anyone. We are cold pounding the shit out of Mars.
One massive punch to the face for Mars now, another fucking kick in the groin later, that's the new NASA motto. Mars can be the earth's punching bag for 300 years.
Just think how good it will be for humanity to know that all the nations of the earth have banded together to beat the shit out of Mars and slam it with comets for it's own fucking good?
Do you think the aliens from the planet Zog are going to want to mess with us when they see what we did to the Martians? Stephen Hawkings is worried about extraterrestrials stealing our water?
Yo, they will see the signature of those comet collisions from their star system and think we got mad fire power. "That can't be natural collisions. That the solar system is way to old. There is some kind of life in that system and they are crazy violent."
I think it's a win win win situation. Attack Mars Now!
The international space community should devote energy to finding comets that may come within striking distance of Mars and develop methods of nudging the comets into collision course with the red planet. Humanity should unite with a strategy of pounding Mars like a sucker punching bag. Nothing else will bring the romance and public engagement with the space program more easily than a manufactured collision that is the equivalent of 20,000 hydrogen bombs detonating right before our orbiting Mars satellite enhanced eyes. What a show! And in 300 years, our 8 foot tall descendants living on the red planet can pour the water produced by the collision into their glasses and toast our need for barbaric entertainment.