What were you doing on Thursday 23rd March 1989? Were you even alive back then?

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was showing at the cinema, Jason Donovan’s Too Many Broken Hearts was number one in the charts, and in just a few months’ time the first ever Sim City would be released, allowing early gamers to create low resolution and highly garish metropolises on their primitive computers. However, all of this would have been hugely disrupted if old 4581 Asclepius had arrived just a little bit sooner.

4581 Asclepius is a small asteroid of the Apollo group with an orbit that brings it close to Earth from time to time. Back on that Thursday in 1989, Asclepius missed us by a mere 425,000 miles; this may sound like a long way, but Earth had been in that very spot a mere six hours prior. In other words, our little blue dot of a planet was perilously close to not so much an extinction event, but a major catastrophe to say the least. An impact would have been comparable to the explosion of a 600-megaton atomic bomb (for reference, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 0.2 megatons). Hitting land would have been bad enough, with widespread obliteration, but an oceanic impact would have resulted in the devastation of coastal cities around the world.

And this is precisely why we should all celebrate Near Miss Day this Sunday, 23rd March, as it commemorates not only the event itself, but every moment since. It got me thinking about what I’d do if there were a massive chunk of space rock hurtling toward us at unfathomable speeds, hellbent on converting me and everything within a 100-mile radius into a smoking crater of dust and vapour. So, off the top of my head…

  1. Go to Toys R Us and go mental. Absolutely mental. Line up a dozen trampolines and see how long I can do laps before breaking my back; that kind of thing.
  2. Eat my weight in anything that takes my fancy. It doesn’t matter if it’s beach season, the beach is about to be turned to glass.
  3. Visit the local tax office and burn £20 notes in front of them, all the while singing “If I can’t have them, no one can!”
  4. Play golf from the top of a block of flats. We don’t have long left, so don’t fret over me accidentally smashing your greenhouse.
  5. Stream the disaster live on YouTube to anyone lucky enough to be on the other side of the planet. If the signal keeps up until the bitter end you may even hear my last words: “Bugger. I could have bought a plane ticket to Australia.”

Be grateful for your time here on Earth and make the most of what you’ve got, because it may not be that long before 4581 Asclepius or one of his mates decides to pay us a proper visit.


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