AstroShield Program Ends

Helios, Near-Solar Observatory Zone -- 26 Apr. 2057:  The last of the aging AstroShield platforms was ceremonially decommissioned this day and added to the Museum of Early Space, marking the end of a beloved but ailing symbol of the expansion of human civilization beyond the boundaries of Earth.

The AstroShield program was inaugurated by the newly-formed United Nations Astronautical Commission on August 13, 2015 after the near-miss of the so-called 'Civilization Buster', a previously undetected near-earth object with a 4500-foot diameter which passed between the orbits of the Earth and Moon.  Renewed fears of catastrophic asteroid impact led to unprecedented inter-national cooperation and speed in the design and launch of the AstroShield, a series of powerful combination scientific instruments and ionic engine platforms under UNAC control which were designed to provide early warning of potential asteroid threats as well as the means to avert them by pushing approaching large or mid-sized asteroids off course.

Dr. Kensington Blackfield of the Interplanetary Astronomical Service, who was a key figure in the implementation of AstroShield, waxed nostalgic about the program in a speech broadcast after the decommissioning.  "To be perfectly honest, AstroShield was not nearly as urgent as we made it out to be.  We deliberately played on the fear of world leaders and populations after the near-miss because we knew it would get us funding and authority.  That was the plan a few of us at UNAC hatched: to use AstroShield as a stepping stone to research and infrastructure that would allow the more intensive promotion of space-based ventures.  Truth be told, the Civilization Buster had lit a fire under us as well.  We had decided that humanity was languishing, that if we didn't get the process of space colonization in gear, this fragile pearl called Earth could far too easily be shattered.  Of course, when the real disaster came -- the Great Blowout of 2017, that is -- we were still not in any way prepared.  But we had managed to establish a significant presence off Earth by then, and it ended up saving us.  Saving us from our own blasted folly."

Dr. Blackfield lamented the end of the AstroShield program, but was philosophical about it.  "All things must end.  To refurbish or replace the AstroShield would have been pointless; every planet and space station has much more effective and advanced collision controls now.  I am sad to see this old friend go, but happy that there is no longer a need for it.  We have grown beyond the need to protect just one planet from destruction.  It's everything my colleagues and I ever dreamed of."

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