Throwing darts in outer space

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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A few days ago, NASA successfully utilized the world’s first planetary defense technology demonstration and smacked into an asteroid. On their first try. 


This was so mind-boggling that it took my attention away from a Tik Tok video featuring an obsessive-compulsive cat.

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That’s right, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, otherwise known as DART, after trawling through space the last 10 months, put the small asteroid, Dimorphos (just 530 feet in diameter), in its crosshairs and ended DART’s one-way kamikaze trip in a dress rehearsal to save humanity. Not that Dimorphos was ever a threat to earth, but in the future, we can bet on the fact that one will be, and NASA scientists are now measuring exactly how far it was knocked out of its orbit to determine how effective this test might be in the future.


And yet, I’ve spoken to very few who even knew about it. Especially young people.


Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like I leapt upon them like an old school marm, terrifying them with a pop quiz: “I want you to write a 300-word essay on the Double Asteroid Redirection Test and have it on my desk by 3 p.m.” And then, leaning it menacingly, adding, “Remember, it’s not too late to change your grade in this class, Missy.”


I get that his dazzling success made a quick headline that was later buried beneath more pressing news of Hurricane Ian—which, of course, was justified, although the sensationalist scandal of Adam Levine’s cheating on his pregnant, supermodel wife, perhaps less so. As with the demoting of Harry and Meghan on the Royal Website…


It just seems that very little seems to impress us these days. I wonder if it’s because we’ve become so used to the daily advancement of technology that we take for granted that, yeah, sure, we can figure out the orbit of an asteroid, shoot a rocket and slam into it on the first try. Even without Bruce Willis. What’s the big deal?


I hope I’m wrong. I hope there’s an enormous demographic of people out there saying, “Are you crazy? I still have a sense of wonder each time I look at the stars. I’m blown away by the possibilities. I can’t believe that not only are we exploring space and developing a defense strategy that can save mankind, but also the fact that we are now making 3-D prosthetics, including body organs, and even an artificial pancreas. Why, we’re even experimenting with editing DNA to prevent mosquitoes from carrying Malaria…”


In the meantime, I did a social media search to see if the success of NASA’s Dart had topped the trends in social media.


Hold the line please…(googling, googling…) Oh, well.


I guess even knocking an asteroid out of its orbit couldn’t compete with Johnny Depp dating his attorney…