NASA seems to have taken a break from landing rovers on Mars and training the next generation of astronauts in order to address a more important issue: the end of the world.
The U.S. space agency announced Friday that it has received thousands of calls concerning the December 21 doomsday (which apparently did not happen).
According to NASA spokesperson Dwayne Brown, the space agency on average receives 90 phone calls a week from the general public, most of which are questions of a general nature. In the days leading up to the December 21, however, the agency has received upwards of 300 messages a day, a majority of which are related to the so-called December 21 apocalypse.
“Who’s the first agency you would call?” he said. “You’re going to call NASA.”
The agency has taken a number of steps to combat rumors of an impending doomsday. The space agency has in the past released a number of videos and statements regarding rumors of a doomsday event, including holding a Google+ forum with interested participants.
“We kind of look ahead — we’re a look-ahead agency — and we said, ‘You know what? People are going to probably want to come to us’ ” for answers, Brown explained. “We’re doing all that we can do to let the world know that as far as NASA and science goes, December 21 will be another day.”
While the 2012 doomsday seems to have come and gone, NASA’s entrance into the debate captured national attention earlier this year. Alongside the high-profile Google+ event, NASA released a website answering various questions, including whether the world will face a cataclysmic impact with an unknown planetary body sometimes referred to as Niribu. In short, NASA says, “the world will not end in 2012.”
“Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012,” the website says.
Early Saturday, NASA took another step to combat rumors, releasing a statement on the same website reaffirming its stance.
“If you’re reading this story, it means the world didn’t end on December 21, 2012. Despite reports of an ancient Maya prophecy, a mysterious planet on a collision course with Earth, or a reverse in Earth’s rotation, we’re still here,” wrote the agency.
The agency said any individual still concerned by the possible ending of the world should remember that reports perpetuating the claim of a “Mayan doomsday” have little basis in fact.
The Mayan connection “was a misconception from the very beginning,” says Dr. John Carlson, director of the Center for Archaeoastronomy. “The Maya calendar did not end on December 21, 2012, and there were no Maya prophecies foretelling the end of the world on that date.”
As for NASA’s next mission? The space agency is already combating rumors of an inevitable worldwide blackout in between now and Christmas. In a posting late Friday, the agency said a worldwide blackout is highly unlikely.
“Absolutely not. Neither NASA nor any other scientific organization is predicting such a blackout. The false reports on this issue claim that some sort of “alignment of the Universe” will cause a blackout. There is no such alignment,” said agency posted. “Some versions of this rumor cite an emergency preparedness message from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. This is simply a message encouraging people to be prepared for emergencies, recorded as part of a wider government preparedness campaign. It never mentions a blackout.”