An Asteroid to Save the Planet

It’s TINSTAAFL Tuesday.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to post about until I saw this bit of future possibility of science fiction becoming reality.  Speculative fiction might be a better description of it.

The article talks about the possibility of harnessing the dust from an asteroid to help reduce global warming.  The dust could act as a sunshade.

*blink, blink*

In the movie Armageddon, Harry (Bruce Willis), A.J. (Ben Affleck), Dan (Billy Bob Thornton), and several other key men (and other amazing actors) must save the Earth from the impact of an asteroid.  Meanwhile, Grace (Liv Tyler) waits for her father, Harry, and her boyfriend (A.J.) to pull off the impossible or die.  Well, if they die, everyone on Earth dies, too.

There is a difference between saving the Earth from impending doom, as in the movie, and geoengineering.  Yes, I know that the movie was fiction and full of inaccuracies of real science.  It was entertaining and fun to watch, and the characters in the movie had no free lunch.  Their lives and sanity were at risk the entire time.

I’m not altogether sold on the theory of global warming, mostly because I think the planet is what it is.  The jury is still out.  Yes, humans do a fine job messing with the environment, but Earth is not static.   There is so much we don’t know about the planet.

Back to the idea that we could harness an asteroid and nudge it close enough to Earth so that its dust particles shade us from the sun to cool us down a little bit.

*blink, blink*

But how do they calculate the tiny 1.7 percent reduction?  What if there is a miscalculation or misinterpretation of data?  Also, there is a concern for safety.

*blink, blink*

It’s not that I think this is a crazy idea (well, not completely).   I’m just saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

I won’t even list all the things that are humanly possible to go wrong with this idea.  Oh, fine, just two:

  • The percentage might be miscalculated.  A 17 percent change is significant whereas 1.7 percent isn’t.  I presume the scientists involved are much better at math than I am though.
  • The weight of the asteroid is bigger than thought so the momentum carries it too close for comfort.  And since the scenario in Armageddon isn’t realistic, the people in charge of space will have to come up with another plan while our moon is hurdled into a different orbit.

Very nice!  I just came up with new science fiction story ideas to start working on.  Cool!  Thanks, geoengineers!

Your turn to share a bit of your lunch.  🙂

Did you see the movie, Armageddon?  If so, did you like it?  Do you do anything on your own to help the planet (recycle, drive a hybrid vehicle, ride a bike to work)?   What do you think about the possibilities of geoengineering to safeguard the environment? 

13 thoughts on “An Asteroid to Save the Planet

  1. Ryan King

    I saw something about this the other day. It’s a really scary thought that they’re thinking about doing stuff like this. Seems like we should be fixing our behaviors instead of trying to do stuff that impact (or kill) us all.

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      I know! One of the things that geoengineers always say is that we should first focus on lowering emissions–changing our behaviors. This a backup plan, I guess. Looks more like something that could be too big not to fail. Scary.

  2. Gilliad Stern

    I am a fan of the movie though I know not to take it for its scientific value. They are wrong on just about every level in the movie but we all see it for what it’s worth. I liked the characters and the action.

    Now it does scare me that someone could think of this as a great solution. I know that most scientist’s have a good track record when they get things done, but there are also those out there that are wrong. I know that NASA does the unimaginable at times, but they also have crashed one of their Mars robots into the planet by a small miscalculation. I just think something of this magnitude would be too risky to take advantage of, especially if it is only for 1.7 percent. Myself, I don’t like the odds.

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      I love how NASA uses the movie as a training exercise to spot as many scientific errors as possible. If movies showed the science just right, we’d probably get bored. 🙂

      You know, I think I’m OK with scientists crashing an unmanned craft into another planet. I don’t like the idea of them accidentally crashing an asteroid into our planet. Just sayin’

  3. August McLaughlin

    Fun post, Diana. I haven’t seen Armageddon, but I recently experience carmageddon (which really wasn’t much worse than usual traffic in L.A. ;)). Harnessing astroids… I definitely see the inspiration and creativity potential there.

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      Thanks, August. Carmaggedon doesn’t sound like fun. It is a creative idea. I think I like the idea of mining the asteroids more than using one as a sun shade though. 😉

  4. TommieLyn

    One problem with trying to tamper with the atmosphere of the earth on this scale (trying to use an astroid, for heaven’s sake!) is that no one has any idea what the result might be. Unfortunately, so much of what passes for environmental science these days is political, and it ignores the cyclic nature of the patterns of warming and cooling the earth has always experienced and continues to experience. And more than that, it attributes the climate change wrought by these cycles to human activity and ignores the actual cause of the fluctuating periods of warming and cooling….the cycles of the sun’s activity/hibernation,

  5. Pingback: NASA Wednesday – Could this be the Next Space Vehicle? « Gilliad Stern's Blog

  6. Pauline B Jones

    I have seen the movie. I, for reasons I can’t articulate, love disaster movies. I was trying to remember the name of the other asteroid movie that year? Or maybe there were three? But it was SO bad, it made the others look really good.

    the hubs is a geologist and he agrees with Tommie. Of course the climate is warming. and cooling and generally doing what it has always done. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a care for the world, but no need to go bat crap crazy about it. (grin)

    1. Diana Beebe Post author

      I remember that year of insane space asteroid movies. Asteroid in 1997 and Deep Impact in 1998 (I had to look it up)–Armaggedon was, by far, the best of the three.

      “No need to go bat crap crazy about it”–I think that should be a motto to save the Earth from the crazy solutions that try to fix normal. LOL.

      1. Pauline B Jones

        Deep Impact! That was it. SO bad. I saw it first and Armaggedon looked Oscar worthy after that. LOL!

        LOL I agree! Does this pass the bat crap crazy test? No. Sorry go back to your padded room now….


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