Friday, May 9, 2008

Armageddon It

Here's a guest blog for your Hacienda fix, while Don Paco reorganizes his estate. Say hello to Don Paco's little brother, currently hiding from the law in Scotland.

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It's finally happening - we're gonna blow up the moon.

Ok, no, we’re not there yet, unfortunately. But in the meantime, there’s no shortage of hare-brained space crusades for America to get excited about. You may remember a while back when the news began reporting that Earth might get hit by an asteroid in 2030. Thankfully, that's no longer the case, at least not until 2071.

Not one to let a good cash cow slip past them, NASA are totally riding this asteroid till it squeals – a metaphor that is actually more literal than you might think. The snappily-named Object 2000 SG344 is still going to fly pretty close to Earth, and damned if we aren’t gonna try and poke at it, as long as it’s there. We have the technology.

Except that we don’t. The plan is not simply to poke at it, but actually land a few dudes on it, and have them crash out there for a week. If only that were just another metaphor.

This sexy new plan to land people on a hurtling space-rock has jumped to the front of the space mission queue, ahead of the slightly less sexy, Bush-approved "moon landing by 2020" and "Mars landing sometime" plans that have been kicking about until now.

Jerry Bruckheimer: seems to be funding NASA

And I, for one, am all for it, mostly because I am an unabashed fan of frivolous space crusades, as well as the 1998 movie Armageddon, which has apparently replaced all the top scientists at NASA now that the US government is bankrupt. If you ask me, send Steve Buscemi up there as quick as possible. (Not so fast, Affleck.)

Billy Bob Thornton demonstrates the latest NASA technology

But I am not without misgivings. If Michael Bay’s 1998 opus taught me anything, it is that landing on a space-rock is bloody difficult. We will need not one but two manned rockets because half the crew are certainly going to die awful, spacey deaths. We will need to inexplicably explode a space station en route, and given that Mir is no longer there for us to pick on, it’ll have to be the International Space Station, which was almost starting to be useful. And it almost goes without saying that the mission will require awesome, hardcore space-tanks to drive around in once we’ve successfully landed on the space rock. Unfortunately, the only gear NASA have the money for seems to be a Tonka truck for helping the astronauts build space-sand castles:

Actual Constellation Program graphic from the NASA website

Another thing we all know from spaceship movies is that once you send people into space, one of them (usually the one whose name is Steve Buscemi) will instantly flip out, with murderous results. This is why, as in last year’s spaceship movie Sunshine, one of the astronauts will have to be a psychiatrist with his own holographic chill-out room. Unfortunately, as you may have gleaned by now, NASA are pretty skint these days, and so instead of replacing our ancient lunar module with a sharp new spaceship sheathed in chrome and operated by floating touchscreens, we’re keeping the crusty old pre-digital-watch era design. So, in short, we’re sending three astronauts up for the grueling 6-month journey in a 5 meter-wide tin-foil Hershey’s Kiss:

Actual Constellation Program quote: “A clean-sheet-of-paper design is too expensive and risky”

The funniest part of all this is that, as far as I can tell, no one is quite sure whether Object 2000 SG344 is even an asteroid at all. Given its smallish size, about the length of a “small yacht,” and its tidy orbit, which is suspiciously similar to Earth’s own, NASA has said there’s a good possibility that the object is actually a loose Apollo Program booster rocket from the 60s.

At this juncture, a few predictions are in order.

Outcome 1: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid, and they actually manage to land on it. Once they step out of their Hershey’s Kiss module, they immediately float off into deep space because the asteroid has essentially no gravity.

Outcome 2: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid and it turns out to be a booster rocket, causing them to turn on each other, suddenly murderous when faced with the prospect of having to pee into tubes and smell each others’ farts for another three months with nothing to show for it except maybe medals of honour from President “El Comandante” Cheney upon their return.

Outcome 3: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid, infinitesimally altering the object’s gravitational field and orbit, causing it to fly straight into Russia, with an American flag stuck in it, in 2030.

Outcome 4: we fly a few dudes up to the asteroid and find it is made of crude oil, diamonds, and super-advanced alien technology, but can’t bring any of it back home because our Tonka trucks aren’t big enough.

Outcome 5: Jerry Bruckheimer kills the project and turns all of NASA’s budget towards building robots that transform.

The future is lame.


Don Paco said...

Absolutely brilliant work, my brother. Thanks for helping to mind the store during my unexpectedly lengthy sojourn. Keep your posterior healthy for all its British fans!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. I sleep better nights knowing one of us is looking up to the skies, every day. That it has spawned a new genre - cosmic tales of wit and where-is-Waldo NASA logic - yes, this family's Mensa meanderings have fertile ground indeed. L'acrobata