When asteroid Armageddon is upon us, we can’t just call Bruce Willis. Meet the people who really do watch the skies – and make detailed plans for our survival
IT IS just after midnight on 29 April 2027. The island of Manhattan in New York has been entirely evacuated. The lights in Times Square are off, the streets abandoned. An eerie silence hangs over the empty neighbourhoods. Overhead, a ball of rock the size of a large building is speeding towards the ground at 19 kilometres per second. In a little over a minute, if the calculations are right, it will explode in the sky over Central Park.
The city has had 60 days to prepare. Museums have been emptied of exhibits, nearby nuclear power stations shut down and fleets of buses requisitioned. Inhabitants of America’s most populous urban area need to be rehoused. The matter-of-fact briefing notes for the evacuation state: “People will be leaving permanently. There will be nothing remaining.”
At 00:01:38, the rock hits. A blast equivalent to 1000 Hiroshima atomic bombs turns much of New York to rubble. The economic and financial damage is incalculable. Ten million people have just lost their homes.
In a meeting hall in Washington DC, there is excited chatter as Paul Chodas declares the simulation over. His five-day exercise at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference has played through the impact of an imaginary asteroid called 2019 PDC from detection to collision (follow the progress in italics on the following pages), to try to determine what would happen if – or when – the real thing happens.
“This is basically the worst-case scenario,” says Chodas. “It all makes for a good movie plot line, of course, but they are realistic factors.” Yet as the room full …
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Born in Syracuse, NY. He holds a bachelor of science degree in communication from Florida Institute of Technology with specialization in technical writing, business, public relations, marketing, media, promotion, and aerospace engineering.
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