So many people sent me versions of this story I cannot thank all of you, but this one was well over twenty submissions from readers of this website. That may not seem like much, but on my end, it's a pattern.
And I can see why. Stories about asteroid defense have been percolating for years, getting a big nudge - not to coin a pun- back in the month before the Chelyabinsk meteor incident when then Russian premier Dmitri Medvedev went on TV calling for an international effort in asteroid defense... and that a month before the incident itself. At that time, I thought (and I still do think) Mr. Medvedev's appearance only a month before the meteor roared over Chelyabinsk was more than coincidental. Mr. Medvedev went on to be questioned about how Russia could defend against an asteroid strike, and his response was even more peculiar: he indicated that Russia could use its many nuclear missiles to destroy or divert such an object, and then went on to mention "other means" to do so, leaving those "other means" unspecified.
With that in mind, consider this NASA article about its DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission:
Here are NASA's own words describing the "redirection test":
ART is a planetary defense-driven test of technologies for preventing an impact of Earth by a hazardous asteroid. DART will be the first demonstration of the kinetic impactor technique to change the motion of an asteroid in space. The DART mission is in Phase C, led by APL and managed under NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program at Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the Science Mission Directorate’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
The binary near-Earth asteroid (65803) Didymos is the target for the DART demonstration. While the Didymos primary body is approximately 780 meters across, its secondary body (or “moonlet”) is about 160-meters in size, which is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth. The Didymos binary is being intensely observed using telescopes on Earth to precisely measure its properties before DART arrives.
The DART spacecraft will achieve the kinetic impact deflection by deliberately crashing itself into the moonlet at a speed of approximately 6.6 km/s, with the aid of an onboard camera (named DRACO) and sophisticated autonomous navigation software. The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent, but this will change the orbital period of the moonlet by several minutes - enough to be observed and measured using telescopes on Earth.
As is evident, the operation is, well, "delicate", but certainly not beyond current capabilities. Japan, after all, has already landed a probe on an asteroid. NASA plans to give the smaller of the double asteroid system a gentle little "nudge" so that observations and further refined telemetry can be performed.
OK... I get all of that. But there's a nagging question in the back of my mind, and so far I've not seen an answer to it: is this test being conducted because the asteroids are "a little too close for comfort"? Probably not, but it bears mentioning, because judging from the popular coverage of the story, everyone else is thinking what I'm thinking: the movie Apocalypse, about trying to destroy a much more serious asteroid threat to the planet.
Ok, so where's the high strangeness and high octane speculation?
In that regard as I was reading the many versions of the story sent to me by readers, I was thinking, however, about a much less well-known bit of speculation about this mission and asteroids, and about the possibility that we might not be looking at a test, but at a message. Back in the 1950s, astronomer Morris Jessup wrote an interesting book titled The Case for the UFO. In it he advanced a number of what we at this website would call "high octane speculations." One of his readers was a fellow by the unlikely name of Carlos Allende, a.k.a. Carl Allen. Allende proceeded to write a whole series of marginal notes in different colored inks in his copy of Jessup's book, and then mailed the annotated book back to Jessup. Jessup read the notes and found them so unusual and disturbing that he brought the annotated copy to the attention of the US Navy in the form of the Office of Naval Intelligence.
From there, the story becomes even weirder, for according to the standard narrative, the Navy then had special copies of the book printed up - complete with Allende's marginal notes and comments - by the Varo publishing company in Garland, Texas, and then supposedly distributed the copies to various interested parties, including Dr. Werhner von Braun (see my book secrets of the Unified Field). Jessup himself died shortly thereafter under suspicious circumstances, having either committed suicide, or having been murdered, by tying a hose to his auto's muffler, and dying of asphyxiation.
So what has all this to do with NASA's DART mission?
In the annotated version of Jessup's book, Allende makes reference to a "war of the gods", which involved the "gods" using asteroids as weapons to bombard planets, a scenario Allende referred to as "the great bombardment."
It takes little imagination to see that a "nudge" of an asteroid to avoid the Earth could be modified to be a "nudge" to ensure it will hit the Earth, for the same principles are involved. So yes, by demonstrating the capability to defend against asteroids, one might equally be sending a message that those wandering rocks could be weaponized as well. If that wild and woolly high octane speculation has any merit, then it prompts one last question: who is the message intended for?
See you on the flip side...