Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Armageddon and Asteroids

"The Bible calls this day "Armageddon" - the end of all things. And yet, for the first time in the history of the planet, a species has the technology to prevent its own extinction. All of you praying with us need to know that everything that can be done to prevent this disaster is being called into service. The human thirst for excellence, knowledge; every step up the ladder of science; every adventurous reach into space; all of our combined modern technologies and imaginations; even the wars that we've fought have provided us the tools to wage this terrible battle. Through all of the chaos that is our history; through all of the wrongs and the discord; through all of the pain and suffering; through all of our times, there is one thing that has nourished our souls, and elevated our species above its origins, and that is our courage."

--The President in ARMAGEDDON--

This fanciful rover vehicle was built for the movie. Euro-Disney's ARMAGEDDON attraction also takes us inside the movie's broken down Russian Space Station. Through special effects we experience collisions, fires and depressurisation! The artists were inspired by the Russian MIR station, which experienced all three.

Though the movie is fun, it contains more technical errors than STAR WARS. A wheeled vehicle could not get traction in the low gravity of an asteroid, so it has upward-pointing jets pinning it to the surface! Even small asteroids "whoosh" by in the movie's vacuum of Space. One forecast, however, may have been ahead of its time. The 2 movie spacecraft are launched around the Moon and to an asteroid atop standard Shuttle Enternal Tanks and 4-segment Solid Rocket Boosters. This is very much like the "Sidemount" concept being studied by NASA and the Augustine Commission.

The hardware being built for the Moon can also take humans to an asteroid. After movies like ARMAGEDDON and DEEP IMPACT, such a mission would fire the public imagination. Despite their danger, asteroids could also be the source of limitless resources. Even a small asteroid could potentially contain more iron than humans have used in all history! Some scientists believe that asteroid Ceres contains more water than Earth. Realistic versions of this vehicle could someday be drilling for minerals on the Moon and asteroids.

UPDATE: Congratulations to the crew of Endeavour and Godspeed for a successful mission!

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Blogger nige said...

Thanks for the cool photos! It would be terrible for a big asteroid to strike the Earth, even if it hit the ocean which is more probable than land since it covers more of the surface. Looking to the K-T event 65 million years ago and other large impacts like those on Jupiter in 1994, you can get explosions equivalent to hundreds of millions of megatons, which makes all the nuclear bombs in existence look like peanuts by comparison. The K-T event was equivalent to many millions of all-out nuclear wars, and nature recovered, albeit minus the dinosaurs and various other evolutionary dead-ends. The dinosaurs were suppressing the full evolution of mammals, and when the dinosaurs disappeared, mammals had a chance to evolve further. I don't think that a repetition of the K-T impact would kill off humans, because we're warm blooded and can eat a wider range of foods; dinosaurs were cold blooded and had a food requirement in proportion to their size. This is why they were vulnerable to temporary global cooling. Still, it would be very bad news for people around the impact site, especially those who anyone who doesn't duck and cover to avoid the worst of the thermal radiation flash burn risk and the flying glass fragments carried horizontally by the blast winds! It would also be unwise to sit around on a beach, due to water waves.

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