Congress Remains Fascinated with Asteroid Collisions

Over the weekend, your Government Documents Librarian started reading "The Dead and the Gone," the companion novel to Susan Beth Pfeffer's young-adult novel, "Life As We Knew It."

The series, whose third part arrives in March, is premised on the alteration of the Moon's orbital path by a collision with an asteroid. The shift results in massive changes to the Earth's tides, plate movement, and volcanic activity, making it, little by little, a nearly inhospitable planet.

Never put it past the United States Government to be any less fearful about the end of the world than your average young adult reader.

As recently as November of 2007, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held hearings on what are called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). In 2002 the same Committee explored the threat of near-earth asteroids, and in 1998, they looked at the threat and "opportunity" of asteroids and other NEOs.

When viewed in the library catalog, the subject headings for these government publications read eerily like the synopsis of a Ben Affleck film:

Near-earth asteroids
Asteroids--Collisions with Earth
Comets--Collisions with Earth
Space flight to asteroids

Clicking on those links, however, will lead readers to scores of interesting materials in Government Documents, the Brill Science Library, and the Instructional Materials Center that explore the real science behind such an idea.

For those interested in space but who wish to stay away from the probabilities of such an event, NASA has just released a very nice book, "The Sun, The Earth, and Near-Earth Space: A Guide to the Sun-Earth System," by the late, famed astronomer John A. Eddy, that is a little more -- or perhaps less -- down-to-Earth. (He refers to asteroid-catastrophes as "Space Weather.")

You may also put this all in perspective with the board game recently released by NASA, and pictured below: "Space Travel Hazards: How safely can you travel through space?" In this game, teams of players travel to Mars (and back) braving radiation hazards. It's actually quite a bit of fun to play, even though its lesson seems to be that a person is safe nowhere.

Click on the call numbers below to see these items in the library catalog, and, in the event of an asteroid collision with the Moon or the Earth, the libraries wish you good luck!

"The Sun, The Earth, and Near-Earth Space: A Guide to the Sun-Earth System" by John A. Eddy
Call no.: Gov Docs, NAS 1.83:NP-2009-1-066-GSFC

Space Travel Hazards (board game)
Call no.: Gov Docs, NAS 1.2:T 69/2/KIT