We humans tend to think of ourselves as special, the culmination of the evolutionary tree. But that hardly seems credible to an astronomer, aware that although our Sun formed 4.5 billion years ago, it is barely in middle age. Should we regret our eventual obsolescence or try to prevent it -- to rage, rage against the dying of the mites, as it were?
We are currently in the midst of what scientists consider the sixth mass extinction in planetary history, with between 150 and 200 species going extinct daily, a pace 1,000 times greater than the "natural" or "background" extinction rate.
Who cares if life as we know it can continue on the planet Earth? This is not a rhetorical question. Who, specifically, cares? As importantly, why should those of us who read this today give Near Earth Object detection and deflection any of our precious time, money, or attention?
Unfortunately for us, earth has experienced at least five mass extinctions during the past 540 million years. Some scientists believe it may be as many as twenty. In other words, mass extinction events are not uncommon.