Richard Stride Commentary: Considering Aliens, Asteroids and Space Junk — Oh My!

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I have always been fascinated by space, the universe and what really exists “out there.” 

I watched Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” more than a dozen times. I read books. I watched other documentaries. I contemplated theories of the origin of life. 

I concluded that although we know a lot about what’s out there, we also realize we know very, very little. 

The fact of the matter is, there is just too much, way too much stuff we don’t understand. 

Even though much of it is beyond our three-dimensional life and beyond our comprehension, it doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to wonder, speculate, imagine and sometimes, yes, possibly might encounter.        

Speaking of encounters — have you heard that we may have been visited by aliens? OK, maybe not actually visited, but we do have documented evidence of encounters.

No real aliens yet. Sorry folks!   

But it has been in the news. Some news outlets even showed videos of what was recorded by Navy pilots and others. The recently unclassified report by the U.S. government concerning UFOs — or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), as they are now called — is interesting. The report indicates that out of 144 reports of UAP since 2004, only one is explainable. 

Only one?

That leaves 143 reports that we cannot explain. That’s a lot of UAP in which the US government can’t identify what it is. Or maybe they do know and they're just hiding it! You might be asking why I am skeptical of what the government really knows. We still don’t know what’s really in Area 51 now, do we? Do you think we are being studied right now by superior beings?  Hmmm, maybe.    

Leaving aliens until we actually do have our first encounter, let’s talk about asteroids. Why asteroids, you say? It’s because, if one big one hits us, then it's … well, the end. Did you know asteroids are left over solar system building blocks orbiting our sun? They are too small to be called planets, so they just fly around the sun. In fact, in March of this year, a large asteroid — about the size of the golden gate bridge — zoomed by earth traveling at about 77,000 mph. 

Wow, that’s large, and fast!   

But my real question is this: can an asteroid similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs happen again? The answer is yes, it can. If an asteroid does come hurtling toward us, it won’t be like the 1998 movie “Armageddon” (you do remember that movie, right?).

The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and over 75% of all living things on the earth, was enormous in size, about 7 miles wide (the asteroid in the movie Armageddon was the size of Texas). The impact created a crater approximately 93 miles wide and 12 miles deep in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Scientists tell us it’s not a question of if, but when. 

Those who study these things say asteroids the size of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs actually hit the earth approximately every 100 million years. So, let’s see, if we do the math, the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs happened about 65 million years ago, so we have about 35 million years before another big one hit’s earth again. Whew! That’s long, long, long past you and me. Hopefully by then future people have a way to deflect it. Or maybe future people won’t have to worry about it because they will have already found other planets to inhabit. How cool would that be?

But, sadly, it appears our earth and the cosmos does not have a preference for what type of life survives, or if any life survives.   

According to scientists, of all the species that have ever existed on earth, 99.9% are now extinct. Many died in five cataclysmic events (humans may be triggering the sixth, but that’s another story for another time).

We may not be able to understand the UAP or predict with pinpoint accuracy when the big asteroid will hit, but one thing we do know is, there is a lot of space junk floating around our planet. 

In fact, NASA tells us there’s a lot of “space junk” orbiting our planet that could fall at any time or anywhere. Really? What is “space junk” anyway?  It’s mainly old satellites, parts of rockets and just, well, junk. 

It appears we have not littered our own planet enough. So, we just launch our junk into space or just let it hang out there. I read recently that the international space station released  2.9 tons of space debris into low earth orbit (old batteries they didn’t need anymore).

Experts say this 2.9-ton pallet of batteries will orbit the earth for up to four years before it enters earth’s atmosphere and burns up. Hmmm, not sure I trust the experts on that one.

Personally, I’m not that concerned about aliens, asteroids or space junk. I figure if aliens want to take over our planet, there’s probably not a lot we could do about it. That doesn’t mean we humans won’t fight to keep our planet, because we will. 

But the reality is if aliens want our planet and they have invented the means to get here they probably are much more advanced than we. More advanced means better technology.

If an asteroid hits the earth that is big enough to wipe us out then we won’t be around to be concerned. If space junk falls, the probability of it hitting me or you is one in a trillion. Not good odds! 

I like studying space and watching movies and documentaries about “what’s out there” because it makes my day-to-day struggles seem pretty small, in the greater scheme of things. 

As Carl Sagan put it, “we are all made of star stuff,” and that’s the cookies on the bottom shelf! 

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Richard Stride has been a practicing psychotherapist. He has worked in behavioral and forensic mental health for over 30 years as a counselor, clinical director and senior executive. He served eight years as a captain in the United States Army Reserve. He enjoys teaching, public speaking and prides himself on being a student of history. He is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at drstride@icloud.com.

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