The U.S. military has been protecting Europe from the now dried-up Soviet threat for decades. Now those freeloading Frenchies are finally showing some appreciation and returning the favor. The European Space Agency, headquartered in Paris, is planning to test an old sci-fi standby: how to divert an asteroid that’s headed for Earth.
After World War II the United States became the world’s policeman, protecting allies from enemies all over the globe. According to Wikipedia, at least 135 nations host U.S. troops, including some 47,000 in East Asia and the Pacific, and almost 78,000 in Europe. Over the years many Americans have called for reductions in these numbers, demanding that we stop policing the world and that other nations take more responsibility for defending themselves.
Well, the Europeans are going a step further, and us one better. They’re looking to shield the whole world – saints, terrorists, doctors, hoarders, Doctors Without Borders, Kardashians, the deserving and undeserving alike – from any near-Earth asteroid discovered to be on a collision course with our planet. Such a not-so-heavenly body remains hypothetical; nevertheless, the 1 in 250,000 chance of 99942 Apophis banging into us in 2036 is currently higher than that of the Russkies sending T-90s into Ruhr, clearly not a priority for Putin & Co. since Russia’s gotten into the habit of just leaving its tanks all over the place unguarded.
ESA’s proposed Don Quixote Near Earth Asteroid Impact Mitigation Mission would prepare the way for Old Europe to defend the Earth against oncoming apocalyptoids. It would consist of two spacecraft: a suicidal impactor, Hidalgo, and a plucky little orbiter called Sancho whose job would be to analyze (while, one hopes, avoiding) the ejecta from Hidalgo’s crash into the rocky menace.
For a second I was afraid they meant David Hidalgo of Los Lobos; he is a fairly big guy, but really…diverting an asteroid? And heck, I like that band. Might as well get really silly and send, I don’t know, Bruce Willis. Oh, wait a minute…