At the end of this month on January 30, 2008 there is a chance that a large asteroid identified as 2007 WD5 could strike the planet Mars. This rock is traveling about 27,000 – 30,000 miles per hour and measures some 50-meters or 160 feet across or about the size of a small size apartment building. If is hits Mars, it is expected to do so near the equator not too far from the Opportunity Rover’s location with a blast equivalent to a 3-megaton atomic bomb carving out a half-mile wide crater and throwing a lot of ground material into the atmosphere. It is theorized to likely be similar to the 1908 blast in Tunguska, Siberia that destroyed tens of millions of trees.
This asteroid was first noticed in November, 2007 (only after it had already passed by Earth missing us by a fairly wide margin) by astronomers associated with NASA’s and JPL’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Office charged with finding and tracking such objects as potential threats to Earth. At first it was thought that the object had only a 1-in-350 chance of impacting Mars but then later reevaluation narrowed that to a 1-in-75 chance. That’s still a slim chance but unusually close enough in such matters to get attention resulting in NASA scientists and the manager of the NEO Office publicly commenting on it in the media. Then on 1/2/2008 University of Alaska Anchorage Dr. Andy Puckett’s reevaluation adjusted the chance down again to an even closer 1-in-28 chance resulting in even more media and public attention.
Many Earth scientists are very excited about this possibility and hoping for an impact. Why? Well one reason is because the impact and its aftermath stands a good chance of being observed both from space via satellites and from ground level by the Opportunity rover and they don’t think the satellites or rover will be close enough to be in harmâs way. Additionally, the resulting new and very fresh giant hole will reveal a lot of subsurface geological information and possibly even on subsurface water presence. Likewise, such an event will focus media, public, and leadership attention on near Earth object issues resulting in this subject being taken more seriously and especially in the funding of research area. All are unparalleled scientific opportunities, so you can perhaps appreciate their excitement and why they are eager and hoping the impact will happen.
However, this scientific attitude functions on the presumption of the academic and science communities opinion believed to be fact that Mars is a hard frozen super dry as dust dead world with a lethal 95+% CO2 atmosphere incapable of supporting life as we know it. So there’s no harm, no threat to Earth, and there is so much to be gained. Yes the latter may be true for our entirely selfish reasons but is the former really true? Is there really no chance of harm?
Remember, Mars has much less of a gravity well than Earth and a much thinner atmosphere. Note that the asteroid has only a 1-in-28 statistical chance of hitting an entire planet and conversely has a 28-in-1 chance of missing it entirely. So how can this object strike where they infer that it will on the planet with any real reliability that can be counted on? Obviously that level of planetary strike accuracy is only a probability subject to variables that can’t be fully anticipated in their computer models.
So, with that questionable accuracy in mind, what if the asteroid doesn’t drill the planet flush in the expected location but strikes a glancing blow? Remember, Mars is a smaller target relative to the broken apart Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that struck giant massive Jupiter in 1994. Further, this is Mars with a thin atmosphere and not Earth’s thick or Jupiter’s super thick atmosphere. So much less of the object mass will be burned away in entry before surface impact and that means a lot of force delivered drilled into the planetary surface.
Further we do not know the geological composition of the object and remember that it is a rock and not a comet. What if it is a very stable high percentage hard nickel/iron solid core rock the size of a smaller apartment building and delivers that glancing blow at 27,000â30,000 miles an hour? That’s some serious stuff! That kind of blow could launch a lot of very large asteroid size hunks of planetary material up into the atmosphere with insufficient gravity and atmospheric resistance to cause it to return to the planet’s surface and it may even escape planetary orbit. This material like lethal bomb shrapnel will then be on its way in many unexpected directions and one or more of those could target Earth. Remember that one ignores Murphy’s Law at one’s peril. Now the whole thing isn’t so dispassionate and distantly harmless sounding any more is it?
That’s just one possible negative scenario (there are others) working with only the self-interest assumption that Mars is a hard frozen dry as dust dead world as per the official consensus academic/science position. But, what if that assumption isn’t true and the official position is seriously flawed? What if Mars is an active living world full of life as the growing evidence here at this website strongly suggests? Do we have no compassion for a world full of life? Are we a planet full of 6.5-billion supposedly reasonably intelligent beings that are for the most part myopically consumed by and cannot see beyond our self-interest? Is this how we wish to be viewed?
The 1908 Tunguska, Siberia blast here on Earth that this Mars bound object is often compared to by the scientists was in a very remote area and the object exploded before striking the ground spreading lesser force over a wide area. That was believed to be a comet with less stable composition. Even so, it destroyed tens of millions of trees. Think what would have happened if the object had targeted the English Channel devastating the UK and most or all of Europe and those populations and economies? If that higher order of detestation potential isn’t enough for you, think what would have happened if that object had been a dense solid nickel/iron core rock drilling into the Earth mantel right into a major fault line in our planet’s Ring of Fire. As you see, harm is a relative thing and something to consider further off of the end of one’s nose.
Meanwhile, consider the following highlighted text that is an entry made in this website’s guest book. Heard on the news a few days ago that Nasa hopes for that asteroid to crash into Mars. Makes one wonder if they hope it will wipe out some if not all of the anomalies. These guys must be really sick. That poor planet has gone through quite some rough times through the ages, so hopefully it will be spared from this mess. Personally I hope it will miss. Perhaps a few small fragments will smack into the heads of those Nasa/JPL eggheads and strike some sense into them. … 12/23/2007 … Robin_Shadowes … Sounds to me like someone we could learn something from, maybe a little compassion.
Even if some of us can’t have compassion for all of the unique Mars biological life ecology’s under this asteroid threat, don’t forget that some of this website evidence suggests the presence of not just biological life but intelligent life more technologically advanced than our own. If so, maybe we should at least selfishly hope that this life is ignoring us or, if not, they are more understanding of our myopic behavior than very many of us appear to be. While some of us are hoping and praying for the asteroid to strike Mars, crowing blindly about it in the media and in meetings, and seeing no further than their own self-interest, let’s hope that someone on Mars doesn’t take offense at this ignorant crass behavior and decide it’s payback time for Earth.
Some may regard this speculation as ridiculous but my advice is don’t tempt fate and be careful what you wish for, it could come back to haunt us all. Although there is nothing constructive we can do to help from the technological view, I say we extend our sincere sympathy to sister planet Mars and its life along with our sincere hope that the asteroid either misses Mars completely or that any advanced technology that may be there is up to the task of deflecting the asteroid away from impact and into a harmless path.
In other words, over all other considerations, we wish you well both planet and all life there. Please also excuse Earth’s more ignorant and clueless members as they do not represent all life here.