NASA screwed up. Not that it matters now. Placing blame does nobody any good. But I blame NASA anyway. The rotation of earth has slowed. A full day now spans almost 25 hours.
Conspiracy theories abound in what is left of the internet. With millions of people huddled in bunkers, caves, or other underground shelters with not much to do but shiver, the blogs are full of wacky ideas. I read one post about how NASA missed the things that hit us.
They say the janitor at Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL) took the job to be close to the brilliant people there. A genius in his own right, he could have been part of an engineering or programming team if he applied himself, but he preferred the simplicity of cleaning up after other people. No one noticed him hanging around the Mars rover control desk late in the evening. The rover operator, Phil, had gone on his dinner break to a local buffet and probably wouldn’t be back for hours.
The janitor used his hidden skills to send text messages from the rover by making it draw letters in the sand. Nobody seemed to notice. Nobody cared what the rover did anymore. NASA had made driving a remote controlled car on another planet into something truly boring. The last reported event on the planet, a surprising rock that had moved, turned out to have been hit by the rover and rolled down an incline. So, nobody cared if NASA was having interplanetary vehicle accidents. Nobody looked anymore.
Except Astrid. She worked in NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) project. It was woefully underfunded and understaffed too. Charged with the duty to locate, identify, and plot the trajectories of space objects that might hit the earth and give warning, it was a failure. With almost no money to afford real astrophysicists, they used starving, lonely graduate students and sometimes high school astronomy club members to monitor the skies.
Astrid was lonely. Bored one night, she moved the focus of her instruments to see the surface of Mars. She eventually found the rover and noticed a pattern in the sand. Were those letters? She changed her settings and gasped. God was speaking to her! There in the sand of another planet was a message just for her!
After staring at it for several moments, she sighed. This wasn’t God. It must be those bored engineers at JPL again. With sufficient funding and toys on another planet, why did they waste time sending horny text messages only she could see? She knew she had commitment issues. Now, anyone looking at Mars knew it too.
The janitor had to cut the message short. The rover only had so much power available each day. If his words took too long to form, the batteries would drain and have to wait two more solar cycles to recharge. The warning would not be seen in time. He originally planned the message to read, “Asteroid, Comet, LOOK UP!” but soon realized he didn’t have enough power or time to spell out full words with punctuation. He shortened it using his Twitter skills. He couldn’t help the slope in the rover’s path that distorted the “L” into an “h”.
In the end, it didn’t matter. NASA’s NEO project failed to report the incoming asteroid and comet until just hours before they hit New York and Los Angeles. The impact devastated both coasts of the United States. New York City was gone along with a large portion of the surrounding states. The asteroid that smacked LA triggered the big earthquake always feared and the coastline now began near what used to be Death Valley.
Much of the US Government survived. The President had been on a golfing trip at an Air Force base in the Rocky Mountains. Much of Congress was on break from their 153 working days (each year) and had picked up where they left off blaming the other party for the lack of preparedness.
Now we huddle underground in a miniature ice age. The ash and dust launched into the sky has cooled the earth so much people are setting wildfires to burn entire forests in a rapid attempt to get global warming going again.