3 Minutes to Impact
TV: 2 x 52” / DVD 100 minutes
Prime-time blockbuster – probably the finest space production from York Films. Progenitor of the spate of impact movies and TV specials that followed.
Commissioned by Discovery Channel (USA), 3 MINUTES TO IMPACT is a gripping analysis of the threat to Planet Earth of the asteroids and comets that hurtle through the inner Solar System. The chances of being killed by a rock from space are greater than dying in an air crash. Each year, Earth is showered by 50-thousand tonnes of space debris. We are under constant bombardment. One day, it will be the Big One.
Part 1, Our Number’s Up, searches the Australian Outback, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Amazonia for the “smoking guns” of impacts from space. Planetary geologist Eugene Shoemaker confirms one impact site at ground level and has a Space Shuttle astronaut photograph another site from orbit. Fellow scientists argue over the size of the impactor that probably wiped out the dinosaurs 65-million years ago - together with 75 per cent of all species on Earth. Compelling evidence emerges in Ireland of a fusillade of cosmic hits that may have caused the Dark Ages. The episode climaxes with a spacerock six-miles / ten kilometres wide hitting the eastern seaboard of the USA. The cosmic winter that ensues causes mass extinction.
Part 2, Fightback, depicts the anatomy of the impact – a crater stretching from New Jersey to Connecticut, a shockwave blasting outwards to the rest of the USA and the rest of the world. Food, heat, sunlight disappear. Humankind and all large animals perish - either instantly or through starvation. Astronomers warn of the pitiful efforts of governments to search the heavens for potential impactors. And with water covering so much of Earth, even smaller impactors would cause catastrophic tsunamis, killing millions. Scientists discuss means of defending Earth. But, ultimately, if it’s the Big One, there is nothing we can do - other than establish colonies on the Moon and Mars from where we could repopulate the planet when the cosmic winter lifted.Mike Quattrone, Discovery’s VP of Programming who originated the idea, described 3 MINUTES TO IMPACT as the best production delivered up to that point to his network. Produced, directed and written by David Taylor with Martyn Ives, 3 MINUTES TO IMPACT doubled Discovery’s rating on first two airings in the USA. The producers were awarded an Emmy in 1998 for Individual Achievement in Writing.