March 2nd, 2013
The last time we had a ringside seat for that sort of impact it was a lot further away and nobody but scientists got to watch it live.1 This time, just think of the pictures we'd get, live on the web, from the array of spacecraft we have in orbit and on the surface of Mars.2
Joking aside, I wonder how the sight of a comet impact on that scale, that close to home would affect our views of living in the solar system. Would NASA suddenly find itself with as much funding as it wanted to design and build a comet deflector, just in case, not to mention greatly expanding existing tracking systems aimed at spotting comets while they're still way out there where there's time to nudge them away from Earth? Or would the remote chance of there being two such large-scale cometary impacts on the inner solar system in our lifetimes persuade us that we'd dodged that particular bullet and could leave the problem alone for a generation or two?
- Or as close to 'live' as the speed of light would allow. ↩
- Alternatively, the Martian Defence Force is going to provide us with unequivocal proof that there is life on Mars, as we watch the Martian Robert Duvall and his crew set out on a mission to blow Comet Siding Spring into two pieces that will pass neatly on either side of their planet. Alternatively, it'll be the Martians from Mars Attacks! who'll step in and deflect a chunk of the comet. Of course, they'd probably do so in such a way that the comet would pass by Mars, only to cannon off Phobos at an angle that left it heading right for Earth. Ack! Ack! Ack! ↩