Things down here on Planet Earth do not appear very optimistic, even dismal. Sometimes they get me down, so I am looking up for more interesting news. We have seen a fair amount of that lately regarding asteroid encounters, UAP sightings, and a helicopter on Mars.
Another Asteroid Fly-by
I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in regard to the Apophis asteroid but we just had another close encounter with a fast-moving space rock. Asteroid FO32 passed by Earth on March 21 at 77,000 miles per hour. That’s more than 100 times faster than the speed of sound.
It was traveling so fast because it its orbit around the sun is highly inclined and elongated and tilted at 39 degrees to Earth’s orbital plane. NASA officials tell us this orbit takes the FO32 asteroid closer to the sun than Mercury and twice as far from the sun as Mars. That must make for some pretty extreme temperature variations.
The 2,230-foot-wide asteroid missed us by a “safe range” of 1.25 million miles and NASA reassures us that it will not come this close to Earth again until 2052. While FO32 posed no risk this time around, NASA can’t rule out a future impact, although probably not for the next few centuries. Thus, they designed FO32 a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PFH).
Will those temperature variations destabilize the asteroid and make it more likely to break up in Earth’s atmosphere? I guess we’ll have to wait a few hundred years to find out.
UAPs and the Sound Barrier
And speaking of the sound barrier, we have reports of Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAP) that have broken the sound barrier without creating a sonic boom. How? We have no idea. Who? Nope, we don’t know that, either.
This disquieting nugget of information comes from an interview that John Ratcliffe, who served as the Director of National Intelligence Community from May 2020 to January 2021, told Maria Bartiromo in a Fox News Interview.
It came out of an interview in which Mr. Ratcliffe revealed the Pentagon is concealing “lots of reports” about what it officially calls UAPs, which you might know better as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO).
He said that these reports include sightings of objects that “frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain.” And that they moved in ways. “that are hard to replicate that we don’t have the technology for.”
Waiting for the Official Report
Meanwhile, we have seen some official action on UAPs that goes beyond dismissing them as swamp gas or weather balloons.
- June 2020: In the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) authorized appropriations for fiscal year 2021 for an Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF). The IAA supported its efforts to reveal any links that UAP “have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations.”
- August 2020: The Department of Defense (DoD) officially approved the establishment of the UAPTF. The task force will investigate the sightings of UAP.
- June 2021: The Pentagon must report more information on UFO sightings by law. The stipulation, listed in the Committee Comment section of the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2021, directs the Office of Naval Intelligence, the UAPTF, and the FBI to provide a detailed and unclassified report by that date.
The report must include, among other things, a detailed analysis of UFO data and intelligence, a centralized analysis of all UAPs and a designated official responsible for reporting this information to the Federal Government, and identify any national security threats posted by UAPs.
While some of us await this report eagerly, many others will probably consign it to the Department of Little Green Men and Bug-eyed Monsters. That would be a mistake. UAPs appear all over the world, including over our military bases – and only the U.S. treats this information as a joke. If a technology we don’t understand and can’t explain is invading U.S. security with impunity, we should be trying to learn all we can about it instead of hiding our heads in the sand.
Ingenuity on Mars
And speaking of sand, our latest Mars mission has been sending back amazing photographs and sound recordings from the Red Planet. It still amazes me that we have equipment rolling around on that small red dot we see in the night sky. Soon, though, our tech will also be flying through the thin Martian atmosphere as the first helicopter on Mars takes flight.
The helicopter, called Ingenuity, will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet no sooner than April 8. This “Wright brothers’ moment,” is reinforced by a tiny piece of muslin fabric from one of the wings from the Wright Brothers’ Flyer that is attached to a cable beneath the helicopter’s solar panel.
When it’s active, Ingenuity will be able to send back aerial photos of the Mars surface. Maybe it will even find Mark Watney.
The Information is Out There
Whether you find all this to be scary, interesting, or stupid, the information is out there and technology is both revealing it and making it extremely difficult to conceal or ignore. We know more about asteroids and the surface of Mars than we ever did before and that’s a good thing.
Paying some real attention to Unexplained Aerial Phenomena will also add to our body of scientific knowledge. The more we learn, the better prepared we will be to deal with threats, solve problems, and stay ahead of potential disasters.