The Comet II – Summary

The Comet II, written by Jayant Narlikar, is the second part of comet that deals with the scientific development and ways to avoid collision.

Summary

The International Conference of Astronomers and Space Scientists discussed the ways to prevent the comet from hitting the Earth. Manoj Dutta was also invited. The issue was kept secret from the press and the people.

The experts suggested two ways to meet the challenge. The defensive measure was that the people should live in underground bunkers for safety. But it was not much practicable. The other course was to take offensive action. It meant that the comet should be given a push and made to change its path a little. This could be done by using nuclear explosion in space.

Finally a time table was drawn for the operation. It was codenamed ‘Project Light Brigade’. On October 10, the spacecraft with nuclear material was to be sent. It would meet the comet on November 15 and try to destroy it. In case the experiment failed, the comet would hit the Earth on December 15. If it succeeded, this was the day the comet would pass by at a near but safe distance. Sir John Macpherson told Duttada that he would not buy any present for Christmas till 15 December.

Duttada returned home from England. He was welcomed warmly. But he was surprised to see some ceremony going on under a tent. Indrani Debi explained that they had arranged a peace Yajna. She called him first to get blessing of pundits because he had left the shores of India. Duttada’s brother explained that the Shanti Yajna would pacify the evil spirit behind the comet and save the Earth. Duttada tried in vain to convince them that comets had no relation with the evil spirit or any calamity on the Earth.

Since his return from England, Duttada was in regular touch with Sir John. The letters contained subtle hints about the progress of the project. The threat seemed very much real. In mid-October the operation began. Duttada kept constant watch on the comet. But he could not share his anxiety with any one.

On November 18, he received a message from Sir John that the operation was successful, and he was going to buy Christmas presents. On 15th December, the comet came closest to the earth, some 80,000 km. away. Millions saw it but no one knew the story.

Duttada told his wife with satisfaction that the comet had gone without causing any disaster. Indrani Debi gave all credit to the Shanti yajna performed by their grandson, eight-year-old Khoka on his behalf. Duttada now saw the gap between the scientific and the superstitious attitude. Perhaps human society would not grow out of blind beliefs and silly religious rituals.

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