FRED WOLFERMAN: U.N. May Expand Into Outer Space
And you thought that, when it comes to dealing with global problems, the U.N. was a bloated, corrupt, bureaucratic mess.
Brace yourself; you haven't seen anything yet. That august body is now being encouraged to take on extraterrestrial threats.
It seems that there is a one-in-45,000 chance, by current estimate, that the asteroid Apophis (the Egyptian spirit of evil and destruction) will smack into the Earth on April 13, 2036. Probably a Friday, though I haven't checked.
A group of worried scientists wants the U.N. to stop it. Pass a resolution or something. Their theory may be that if enough hot air seeps into space, it will divert the asteroid from its appointed rounds. They are therefore making a proposal that the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space take a look at the problem. (Is there a U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Earth?)
Now, I wouldn't want to be standing under this thing if it hits -- though, given the time frame, I would much more likely be lying under it, and perhaps mankind has reached the point where it can actually defend itself from stray stellar objects. But count on the U.N.? Get real.
I can just hear the debate:
General Assembly President Omar Hassan al Bashir: "We will now open discussion on how to deal with asteroid Apophis. I call on the delegate from -- "
Russian delegate: "Nyet! Nyet! We are not wish to have this discussion. Who is this asteroid? What is he?"
Al Bashir: "Well, asteroid Apophis has been called to our attention by the Association of Space Explorers, headed by American astronaut Rusty Schweikart. Mr. Schweikart says -- "
Iranian delegate: "American imperialist capitalist swine! Is no asteroid. If is, will not hit Earth. If will hit, cannot be stopped. If can be stopped, cannot trust Americans."
American delegate: "I can assure the gentleman that this represents our best science, and that we can avoid any potential disaster if only we act in time."
Russian delegate: "How much will cost?"
American delegate: "Our best estimate is $300 million."
Russian delegate: "Who estimate? NASA?"
American delegate: "No, this is directly from the new Department of Extreme External Perils, or DEEP."
Russian delegate: "Thank God. We have God now. NASA is hopeless. Who will pay?"
American delegate: "Well, we believe that, since this is clearly an international problem, it should be paid for by all the members of this body."
North Korean delegate: "Where will it hit? Where it hit should pay, except North Korea. We will let it hit. Make an improvement."
American delegate: "Actually, we don't know where it will hit. After all, this is 29 years off. We think just determining the date is pretty darned exciting."
Iranian delegate: "Exciting? I'll tell you exciting -- asteroid will hit United States on New York, that is exciting."
Al Bashir: "I would remind the delegate that we are in New York right now."
Iranian delegate: "Los Angeles, then. Get rid of vile Hollywood pornographers."
American delegate: "Some of your best friends are in Hollywood, you -- "
Al Bashir: "Gentlemen, gentlemen, please. We are here to discuss the asteroid crisis."
French delegate: "Crisis? Mais non, non. We have the decades to consider this. Let us appoint a subcommittee of a committee to study carefully and report back in, oh, 20 years. I myself will chair this subcommittee; we will require the operating budget of $10 million per year for coffee and croissant. The first meeting will be at Cannes next year. Who would like to be on this subcommittee?"
Iranian delegate: "I, please!"
North Korean delegate: "I, too!"
Russian delegate: "Yes!"
Al Bashir: Very well. The Asteroid Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will convene in Cannes next year, with a total budget of $200 million, to report to the committee of the whole in 2027 on the matter of asteroid Apophis. We will now hear from the Committee on Peace in the Near East."
Iranian delegate: "I move to adjourn."
Russian delegate: "Second."
Al Bashir: "All in favor? ... Opposed? ... The ayes have it. Meeting adjourned."
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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