asteroid impact
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As President Barack Obama jump-starts his re-election campaign and declared or potential Republican candidates like Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry test-fly various strategies, it's a sure bet that not one of them will be breathlessly warning of an always pending and incalculably lethal threat to our troubled planet.

Too bad. They should be.

This city, region, nation, or even planet-killing threat - chuckling and shakes of the head anticipated - are the all-but invisible asteroids which whiz by earth on a fairly regular basis.

For instance, asteroid 2011 MD. Heard of it? Well, on June 27, this asteroid - which was not discovered until June 22 - just missed the only home we have in the universe by a miniscule 7,500 miles.

To astronomers, that's a distance so close that the objects may as well be touching.

Of course, instantly NASA astronomers basically said, "Nothing to see here. Move on. There is no chance 2011 MD will hit Earth."

Even if they had been wrong and the asteroid did enter our atmosphere, they said it "likely wouldn't reach the surface."

By their own admission, NASA initially got the calculations on asteroid 2011 MD's closet approach to Earth wrong, so "likely" is not always that comforting.

What if they had been even more wrong and it was a certainty that it was about to strike earth?

What if, instead of the approximately 100 feet across, it had been 500 or 1,000 feet across? With five days notice or less, what could we do to avert a collision that would have the potential to wreck havoc on humanity?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Laugh, if you will. File this incident and remarkably close call in with the reports of UFOs over the swamp and Sasquatch in the neighbor's backyard.

But you do so at all of our peril.

In 1908, an asteroid - much smaller than originally believed - exploded over Siberia and flattened more than 800 square miles of forest, killing everything in its path.

The truth is that the vast majority of politicians in our country - Republican or Democrat - are loath to discuss this subject out of fear of being labeled eccentric or because they have (rightfully) determined that it's not considered tangible and is not a vote-getter.

Fine. Except I would argue that asteroid 2011 MD just demonstrated that if leaders such as President Obama, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and others are not talking about the horrific and unimaginable consequences of an asteroid strike, they are in dereliction of duty.

There will be no second chances, no do-overs, and no soaring rhetoric to reverse the devastation or even extinction.

Knowing that to be the absolute truth, shouldn't those politicians who hold our fate in their hands at least give this subject a bit more thought?

As our elected officials continue to throw billions of dollars around like they were dimes, shouldn't they think about investing more of that money into asteroid detection and collision prevention?

Diverting or destroying an Earth-killing asteroid can only really be accomplished from a space-based platform.

A platform that does not exist.

Next, does this latest cosmic scare dictate the need for the governments of the world to come together to formulate a plan to permanently get a sampling of humankind off the planet and into the solar system as a way of preserving the species?

Leaving aside destruction by an asteroid, human beings tend to be fairly fragile and don't react well to nuclear weapons, terrorism, natural disasters or unforeseen plagues.

Isn't it time we covered that bet?

While I go back to scanning the skies for ET and leaving a plate of food out for Bigfoot, I really do hope President Obama and those who seek to replace him, give this subject the attention it deserves... before it's too late.

Douglas MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and a long-time consultant on space.