LOS ANGELES: If there's one US government body really looking forward to December 22, it's NASA. The space agency said it had been flooded with calls and emails from people asking about the purported end of the world - which, as the doomsday myth goes, is apparently set to take place on December 21.
The myth may have originated with the Mayan calendar, but in the age of the internet and social media it proliferated online, raising questions and concerns among people around the world who turned to NASA for answers.
An agency spokesman, Dwayne Brown, said NASA usually received about 90 calls or emails a week with questions from the public. But in recent weeks the number had rocketed, and between 200 and 300 people a day had been contacting NASA to ask about the end of the world. ''Who's the first agency you would call?'' he said. ''You're going to call NASA.''
The questions range from myth (Will a rogue planet crash into Earth? Is the sun going to explode? Will there be three days of darkness?) to the macabre (Some people ''embrace it so much'' they want to hurt themselves). So, Brown said, NASA decided to do ''everything in our power'' to set the facts straight.
The effort included interviews with scientists posted online and a web page that Brown said had already drawn more than 4.6 million views.
NASA has put out a video called Why the World Didn't End Yesterday. Although the title implies a December 22 release date, Brown said NASA posted the four-minute clip last week to help spread its message.
NASA suspected it might have to create such a campaign when the idea of the world ending began ''festering'', he said. The apocalyptic action movie 2012, released in 2009, did not help.
''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','' Brown explained. ''We're doing all we can to let the world know that as far as NASA and science goes, December 21 will be just another day.''
NASA has handled many high-profile events before, Brown said, including the Venus transit this year, but nothing this big. ''It's been a very, very busy week,'' he said.
Los Angeles Times
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