(Earth doing ecologically nicely)

by Bob Kobres

1983 version


This paper points out the danger that comets and Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids present to life on Earth. A remedy for this danger is proposed. The multiple benefits that will be side effects of the suggested prescription are then outlined; i.e. halting weapon research and development by agreement and insuring that it remains halted by utilizing the institutions, industries, and resources currently involved in such research and development to greatly accelerate space research and development in a cooperative manner. The advantages solar power satellites could provide are also discussed.

*The coined term reaimament indicates the process of changing (for the better) an objective or goal, a system or process, the purpose or use to which something is put, an attitude or precept; i.e. "World wide economic reaimament is much needed to deal with the world's problems." Also, a different (more effective) approach to solving a problem; i.e. "Due to the long history of virtually ineffectual disarmament talks, this author believes it is time for reaimament."

There is a serious game of beat the clock taking place on this planet. The contestants are people concerned primarily with their nation (Nationalists) and people concerned primarily with our world (Globalists). The objective of both groups is ostensibly the same--they each endeavor to solve the problems they perceive before time for workable solutions runs out. Both groups have inherent handicaps: Nationalists are playing with blinders on; Globalists have entered the game late and are playing with fewer contestants.

This article is directed to Globalists and explores an oversight which is widespread amongst our group. Globalists have in general extrapolated the valid principle "a world divided will fail" from "a nation divided will fail." What Globalists have not done in general is to extrapolate the equally valid principle "a world undefended is vulnerable" from "a nation undefended is vulnerable." Preoccupation with the obvious madness at hand is the cause of this oversight. After all, protecting our Earth is what we Globalists have considered ourselves to be doing or trying to do. No, the oversight referred to is failing to appreciate the damage that would be done to life on this planet if we suffered a close encounter of the worst kind--an impact from a large piece of cosmic garbage. Improbable you say? No, it is certain to happen! The unknown is when.

Ever since the comet of 1682 returned in 1758 as Edmund Halley predicted, people have been searching for new ones. As of late 1980, there were 666 well-documented comets recorded in Brian Marsden's comet catalogue. About 450 of these have orbital periods of 200 or more years. There are 16 with orbits that take from 20 to 200 years to complete and around 100 that orbit in less than 20. The remaining 100 comets were distinguished by their very high velocity, and are thought to have been on their maiden voyage amongst the planets. The shortest period comet (named Encke) orbits the Sun every 3.3 years. Encke is interesting as it has apparently left a memento of itself on the Earth. This reminder was delivered early in the morning of June 30, 1908, to the Tunguska basin in Siberia. Its messenger is thought to have been a "dirty snowball" 40 meters (131 ft.) in diameter, weighing 50,000 tons. What it left was almost two thousand square kilometers (about 700 sq. mi.) of flattened forest and a lot of dead reindeer. It is estimated from the damage that was done that the object blew up 8.5 kilometers (5.3 mi.) above the ground with the explosive force of 12.5 megatons of T.N.T.! Encke itself is 100,000 times as massive. Assuming the same velocity, a collision with a comet that size would liberate around 1,250,000 megatons of explosive force! That's roughly 60 times the force available from the world's present nuclear arsenal!

What makes comets so mean is they travel so fast (up to ~70 kilometers per second relative to Earth). The formula for energy released in a space collision is the product of mass times velocity squared, divided by two. That's why even a small chunk of comet can do a heap of damage. The closest measured brush with an active comet nucleus occurred on July 1, 1770. It was named Lexell's Comet and missed Earth by a little over twice the distance to the Moon. This object must have been something to behold, for it had an apparent diameter of over 2.5 degrees--that's 5 times the diameter of the Moon as it appears to us!

Active comets however, are not the only space garbage that we need to be concerned with. Earth-crossing asteroids (many of which are thought to be comets that have quite literally run out of gas) have been observed equally close.1 About 30 of these Earth-crossers have been spotted so far, but since they are so hard to see, it is reckoned that there are probably at least 30 times this number. Known Earth-crossers range in size from .2 to 10 kilometers (.125 to 6.2 mi.) in diameter and travel between 20 and 30 kilometers (12.4 and 18.6 mi.) per second. Since they can only reflect a small amount of light they are visible for at most only a few hours, even with the largest ground based telescopes. In 1937, an apollo type Earth-crosser named Hermes seemed to pop out of nowhere and zipped by us at about the same distance as the 1770 pass of Lexell's comet.

Another apollo, Icarus, which was discovered on June 16, 1949, has been observed enough to calculate its orbit to within around 250 kilometers (155 mi.). An alarming property of this orbit is the ratio of its period to that of the Earth's--17 to 19. This means a near miss every 19 years. The last close approach on June 14, 1968, became the subject of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology class project which is well worth reading. This project assumed that the orbit of Icarus had been slightly perturbed and Icarus was on a collision course with Earth. Here is a quote from "Project Icarus:"

"The consequences of a collision with Icarus are unimaginable; the repercussions would be felt the world over. In dissipating the energy equivalent of half a trillion tons of T.N.T., 100 million tons of the Earth's crust would be thrust into the atmosphere and would pollute the Earth's environment for years to come. A crater 11 miles in diameter and perhaps 3 to 5 miles deep would mark the impact point, while shock waves, pressure changes, and thermal disturbances would cause earth-quakes, hurricanes, and heat waves of incalculable magnitude. Should Icarus plunge into the ocean a thousand miles east of Bermuda for example, the resulting tidal wave, propagating at 400 to 500 miles per hour, would wash away the resort islands, swamp most of Florida, and lash Boston--1500 miles away--with a 200-foot wall of water". "In light of the consequences of a collision with an asteroid the size of Icarus, the possibility of such a collision, no matter how remote, cannot go unrecognized. The world must be prepared, at least with a plan of action, in case it should suddenly find itself threatened by what had so recently been considered a folly".

It is becoming increasingly accepted that the dinosaurs along with 50 percent of the genera living on Earth at the end of the Cretaceous period fell victim to an extraterrestrial body. The hardest evidence was turned up in 1979 when Luis Alvarez, Frank Asaro, and Helen Michel of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab and Walter Alvarez of the University of California at Berkeley reported that to their surprise they had found unusually high levels of the element iridium in the clay that marks the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods. The research was conducted originally to find out how long the clay layer between the two periods took to form. Since iridium is a scarce element on Earth (most of its share being deep in the core), what you do find on the surface is due primarily to the continuous rain of meteoritic dust which is rather rich in iridium. What the Berkeley team found was an increase of from 25 times normal levels in a sample from Gubbio, Italy to a 460 fold increase in samples taken from Caravaca, Spain. Later, samples obtained near Canterbury, New Zealand showed the same type anomaly, demonstrating that it was a world-encompassing event. It will be interesting to see if iridium anomalies are associated with other widespread extinction events known to have occurred.

Only 20 years ago concern over being hit by a large piece of space trash was as useless as concern over the Sun's running out of gas. There was nothing we could do about it. That's not the case today. If a large body collides with Earth in the next 8 to 10 years, it will be a tragedy. If one collides after that period of time, it will be just as disgusting as blowing ourselves up with nuclear devices or poisoning ourselves through cancerous consumption. We can now prevent such an event from occurring, and what is equally satisfying is that by preparing ourselves to do so we may expedite solutions to many of our currently perceived problems!

This article proposes that Globalists push for a freeze at a mutual parity level of weapon sophistication and deployment (biological, conventional and nuclear), between the super powers, plus a nuclear reaimament agreement amongst all nations.2 In other words, rather than try to stop the military industrial complexes of the world in their tracks, put them instead on a new constructive path that will tax their abilities and resources.

For an adequate life defense system we need to know the exact orbit of any massive object falling unguided (henceforth O.F.U.) about the Sun. At present everything we know of that orbits the Sun and was not made by us is an O.F.U., Earth included. To protect our own O.F.U. we will ultimately need to convert any threatening O.F.U. to a guided object for at least long enough to make it a non-threatening O.F.U. Basically what is needed are two observation stations located far enough apart for accurate distance measurement of the object being observed. In the course of a few years a highly accurate dynamic map of our solar system will emerge. This map, which will reside in the innards of several computers, will inform us as to which O.F.U. deserves our attention first. The way we will deal with a threatening O.F.U. will depend upon the characteristics of the object and its orbit. Nuclear devices packaged for space use only (antennas sticking out, no atmospheric reentry heat shields, etc.) will be necessary in many cases to guide these objects. If however, the threatening O.F.U. is small and contains valued material it will be landed upon, mining will commence, and the tailing will be ejected by mass driver to guide the object. The size of the nuclear arsenal kept on hand will be determined by worst case scenario; i.e. a large, high velocity comet type O.F.U. on a collision or near miss trajectory.

Due to the logistics of constructing these stations, the optimum placing will be in an orbit that varies in distance from the Earth by twice the closest approach to the Earth. This type orbit is called a 2 to 1 resonant orbit, and in this case will keep the stations at a constantly varying distance of 100,000 to 200,000 miles away from Earth. I mention this placement because of the 1967 treaty banning weapons of mass destruction in outer space. This treaty need not be scrapped to build a life defense system, only amended to allow the use of such devices for peaceful purposes outside a 100,000 mile radius from the Earth. The intent of the 1967 treaty will be preserved, and the necessity of mutual agreement in amending the treaty will insure that producing a life defense system will be a cooperative effort between East and West.

It is the active cooperation between East and West, which will be necessary to accomplish this project, that constitutes the most immediate benefit from a nuclear reaimament agreement. A nuclear freeze agreement alone would require only passive cooperation, and in all likelihood such a freeze would soon thaw. Once the commitment to nuclear reaimament is made, it will be very difficult for any of the parties to back out, and it is unlikely that any of the parties would want to back out. There are several reasons why this will be the case. A nuclear freeze-plus-reaimament agreement

1. will halt the arms race by agreement and insure that it stays halted by keeping those parties currently involved in arms development extremely busy on the life defense Project.

2. will halt the militaristic space race for the "high ground" by accelerating space development in a cooperative manner.

3. will provide absolute verification of nuclear weapon removal when the space bases are completed. The weapons will be out of the biosphere, thus not in easy reach.

4. will offer a way to remove most of the toxic element plutonium from our biosphere. Plutonium was extremely rare on Earth prior to nuclear reactors.

5. will refine the technology necessary to build solar power satellites which will provide a much safer source of high grade energy than nuclear or coal burning power plants.

6. will stimulate the world economy by reducing East/West tension, developing equatorial launch sites, creating a more optimistic mood toward the future, as well as opening new career fields and starting new industries.

7. will generate the hardware needed to develop space based manufacturing of a variety of products that are difficult or impossible to produce on Earth, such as low cost ultra pure pharmaceutical products, low cost, efficient solar cells, new alloys, high power communication satellites, etc.

8. will provide life with the ability to prevent abrupt changes in Earth's biosphere until the Sun runs out of gas. This includes preventing ice ages by energy importation with reflectors as well as preventing O.F.U. encounters. 3

The principal advantages of a nuclear freeze-plus-reaimament strategy (as compared with other strategies), and the reasons such an approach has a good chance of working are as follow:

1. Both East and West have finite research, development and production capabilities. Any agreement between these parties that does not provide for full utilization of these abilities leaves open the possibility of covert weapon system development. By providing a complex, taxing defense project such as outlined above, both parties will be fully occupied.

2. Because reaimament redirects the outcome of defense spending rather than cutting back on such spending and since the same industries are involved, there will be less opposition, (which has been formidable in the past when cuts in defense spending were proposed) from these industries.

Many of you are no doubt familiar with the gloomy forecasts outlined in reports such as "Limits to Growth" or "Global 2000." Reports such as these are valid only if we elect not to develop our space capabilities in a timely and cooperative manner. This is so because space development will expand our resource base in three important areas: energy, information and materials. Already satellites have provided us with a tremendous amount of information about our biosphere and how we are affecting it. Satellites have been and are being used to locate needed resources such as water, fuel, and minerals. As communication devices, satellites have provided under-developed areas with telephone and television service in a quick, low cost manner. The most urgently needed satellites, however, are yet to be built and are not likely to be built until the costly arms race is halted. These are the solar power satellites. Solar power satellites will provide continuous low cost, high grade energy in an environmentally sound way. This will enable us to do many things not currently possible. Among these new possibilities are:

1. the ability to phase out nuclear and fossil fuel power plants

2. the ability to produce hydrogen in huge quantities for use as a non-polluting, portable fuel

3. the ability to hasten the fulfillment of human need in third world areas by providing low-cost energy to irrigate, clean their drinking water, produce and utilize labor saving machinery, revitalize damaged land, etc. 4

From the above, it is easy to see that solar power satellites hold great promise for environmental improvement, but space development will, in time, do much more to help improve conditions on Earth. Many, if not all, of our current industrial processes that do harm to our environment will be moved into space or made obsolete by new processes only possible in space. This trend will ultimately reduce our need for high grade energy within our biosphere, thereby reducing long term thermal pollution. It is very probable that 30 to 40 years from agreement day, most routine labor and much routine maintenance will be done by robots. The 20 hour work week will be here. We will be free, most of our time, to pursue creative endeavors. Improving the quality of our life will be more important to us than increasing our material worth, for goods will be plentiful, durable, and low in cost. Communication wise, the "Global Village" will have arrived. Due to huge capacity, high power communication satellites a voice visit with a friend anywhere will not add to your communication cost. A real time video visit will be similar in cost to a long distance phone call today.

In other words, the early signs of E.D.E.N. are not that far away! Not if we act soon. The obstacles blocking this path are not technical, they are political in the broadest possible sense. The impediments are the result of short-sighted, self-serving attitudes. Protesting alone will not overcome these attitudes. What is needed is an advocacy position that is difficult to attack. Developing a multinational "Life Defense Force" is a hard thing to argue against politically. The argument that the other side will continue to develop weapons covertly is undermined by the research and development demands of the agreed upon project. Any nation that would refuse such a safe, mutually advantageous agreement would in effect be saying--"We love our nuclear weapons and wouldn't give any of them up for the world." In other words, there is no reasonable reason for opposing such an agreement. Recall that the East was in favor of a nuclear freeze. The West, however, was unconvinced that the East would in fact halt weapon development, and argued that there would be no way to tell for sure without extensive on site verification, which the East refused to allow. Under a properly designed nuclear reaimament agreement, it will be obvious if either side is cheating, for they will fall behind schedule. I submit that such falling behind is very unlikely for meeting or beating the schedule will become a matter of national pride on both sides.

In summary, this proposal calls for a ten year truce between East and West, during which time some healthy cooperative competition will be under way to create a joint mining operation on the Moon with which to enable the construction of two space colonies equipped so as to be capable of both defending the Earth from a random catastrophe, and building space equipment such as solar power satellites.

Folks, if we can put our hearts and minds together to bring about the necessary political pressure to carry this project through, we will be on the path to E.D.E.N. It will not be easy. There is, and will continue to be a lot of ground work to bring about and keep E.D.E.N. Space development can aid. Ultimately though, it’s our attitude that will decide our fate. If we embrace Life as the cooperative ensemble that it is, we will achieve E.D.E.N. I believe the concept of a "Global Life Defense Force" will foster this type of attitude. I hope you agree!

If you are willing to work to help bring about this future course please get in touch.

bobk 83

1Earth-crossing asteroids are the amor, apollo or aten type asteroids that cross the orbital path of the Earth and thus have a finite probability of colliding with the Earth at some point in time.

2Nuclear reaimament is a broad multifaceted concept. In addition to putting already manufactured nuclear weapons to a good use (defending the planet), it necessitates large scale space development which will facilitate the construction of solar power satellites. It has been estimated that one solar power satellite could increase India's energy supply by 40X at a much lower cost and in a much safer manner than nuclear power plants. Thus the inclusion of all nations in this agreement promises to dissuade most from the nuclear path, thereby reducing nuclear weapon proliferation. Also, by incorporating solar power satellite development into the agreement a fair vehicle for the principal investors (the super powers) to recoup their investment and maintain the service is provided. Selling space equipment and/or energy is obviously better for all parties than arms sales.

3Ice ages seem most likely to occur when northern hemisphere summers coincide with the Earth being farthest from the Sun, but they do not always occur when these conditions exist. It seems that a triggering mechanism must arise. Such a trigger could be reduced solar output, increased volcanism (making the atmosphere more reflective), or an O.F.U. encounter having the same atmospheric effect as increased volcanism. A massive nuclear exchange could also bring about global cooling.

4The ability to produce and utilize labor saving devices is of key importance in slowing population growth. Having more hands to help with manual labor is a major incentive for having many offspring.


1. Brandt, John C. "Comets" (1981), Chapter 10. LC# QB 721 .C65

2. Calder, Nigel "The Comet is Coming" (1980), Chapters 3, 7, 8. LC# QB 721.C34

3. Cole, Paul M. and Taylor, Wi am J. Jr. eds. "The Nuclear Freeze Debate" (1983) papers 1, 5, 7, 8. LC# JX 1974.7 .N815

4. Dumas, Lloyd J. ed. "The Political Economy of Arms Reduction" (1982) papers 1, 2, 3, 8. LC# HC79.D4 P64

5. Epstein, William & Webster, Lucy eds. "We Can Avert a Nuclear War" (1983) papers 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12. LC# JX 1974.7 .W38

6. Feather, Frank ed. "Through The '80's" (1980) pps 5-7, 12-15, 78-87, 127-134, 276-278. LC# CB 161 .T49

7. Gribbin, John R. ed. "Climatic Change" (1978) Chapter 8. LC# QC 981.8 C5 C55

8. Heppenheimer, T.A. "Colonies in Space" (1977) Chapters 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 14. LC# TL 795.7.H46

9. Kleiman, Louis A. ed. "Project Icarus" (1968) Chapters 1, 2, 3, 10. LC# TL 788.8 U6I2

10. Leontief, Wassily & Duchin, Faye "Military Spending" (1983) Chapters 1, 3, 9, 10. LC# HC 79 .D4L46

11. Lovelock, J.E. "Gaia, A New Look at Life on Earth" (1979) Chapters 7, 8, 9. LC# QH 313 .L68

12. O'Neill, Gerard K. "The High Frontier" (1977) Chapters 3, 8, 9. LC# TL 795.7 .053

13. Sears, D.W. "The Nature and Origin of Meteorites" (1978) Chapters (1.5.1.), (2.3), (6.3) LC# QB 755 .S4

14. Shoemaker, E.M. et. al. "Earth-Crosslng Asteroids: Orbital Classes, Collision Rates With Earth, and Origin" paper in "Asteroids" (1979 1982 ed) pp 253-282 LC# QB 651 .A85

15. Simon, Cheryl "Clues in the Clay" in Science News, "Vol. 120 Nov. 14, 1981 pp 314-315 also "Impacts and Rare Metals: Searching for Evidence" "Science News", Vol. 121 May 22, 1982 p 340

16. Taylor, Trevor "Arms Control: The Bankruptcy of the Strategists’ Approach" paper in "The Arms Race In the 1980s" (1982) pp 48-61 LC# JX 1974 .A7696

17. Vaik, J. Peter "Doomsday Has Been Cancelled" (1978) Chapters all LC# CB 161 .V35