By DAVID HOLAHAN | COMMENTARY
The Hartford Courant
5:50 PM EST, February 22, 2013
We should declare war on space rocks.
A meteor exploded over Russia the other day at the precise time that a "killer asteroid" whizzed within 17,000 miles of earth. Coincidence? Don't bet on it.
It's time for President Barack Obama to wake up and smell the burning magma. We're already at war with inanimate objects.
Besides, it helps solve a national problem. As we wind down the second of two long-running wars, there seems to be a void in the national psyche. Where, oh where will our next war be? Syria? Mali? Iran? North Korea? We have so many adversaries, and so little revenue.
What we need is an economical enemy, a compact nemesis that gets good gas mileage. Something that could bring us all together in global harmony: Sunnis and Shiites, Israelis and Palestinians, lions and lambs, Republicans and Democrats (all right, that last one is a stretch).
Bring it on, space gravel!
The cosmic love tap on Mother Russia (the day after Valentine's Day, for Pete's sake) was only the latest bout in this rocky saga. The universe has been trying to brain us since long before we waxed sapiens: If It had been successful back then, we literally wouldn't have known what hit us.
How long have we been at war? Oh, 65 million years at least. Space detritus has been raining down on us for eons. One of the earliest salvos was a pre-emptive strike: An asteroid estimated to be six miles across crash-landed east of the Yucatan, dramatically changing planetary weather and ecosystems. It wiped out many species, most famously the dinosaurs.
Leave it to Random Chance to attack a popular vacation destination. Well, Mr. or Ms. Universe, we weren't even there yet! You totally missed us, you stellar nincompoop — and all our knuckle-dragging ancestors, too — by a mere 60 million years, give or take. But the Unfriendly Firmament didn't fold his fiery tent.
Another asteroid landed 50,000 years ago smack dab in not-yet Arizona, making a crater more than 500 feet deep with a circumference of 2.4 miles. The Mysterious Misanthrope missed us again, but only by 35,000 years this time. All that attack accomplished was to create a future tourist attraction.
By now you've got to figure that he, she or it is pretty mad, and probably feeling more random than ever. Zeus shot another bolt at us in 1908 when he hurled a brickbat that exploded over an uninhabited Siberian forest with an estimated force 1,000 times greater than the atomic bomb that we dropped on Hiroshima. This extraterrestrial means business, although Siberia isn't a good target if you're aiming for an audience.
What's ET's next play? Nobody knows. Why is it happening? Search me. Heck, we'll probably do ourselves in before the century is out anyway, so what's the big rush? Clearly there's no reasoning with this giant Ether Bunny.
So what are we going to do about it?
NASA reports that there are 20,000 asteroids that orbit close enough to Mother Earth to bear watching; many could put a big dent in our pursuit of happiness. A few years ago, we Americans were thinking of sending a telescope into orbit around the sun to better locate and track these pernicious projectiles, but, with two wars going, the funding didn't materialize.
Let's face the facts: We're under siege and our country needs a good war. We have to do more than figure out what's going to hit us, when and how hard. We have to shoot first! This is the right tiff at the right time. It won't cost a whole lot — a couple of telescopes and maybe a handful of granite-seeking missiles, tops.
Here's the key point about this bright and shining war on intergalactic rubble: It'll be popular as all get out. No one is going to be rooting for space debris — except, of course, Republicans, when they find out that President Obama is against it.
David Holahan is a free-lance writer who lives in East Haddam.
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