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As the party are driving along the road, cars are falling on them but they avoid them. Suddenly, there are bullet holes everywhere in the car.
Solar flares travel at close to the speed of light, (a fraction slower), but would still take 3 minutes to reach Mercury from the Sun. They declared "20 seconds until landing" then the flare started then hit them.
During conversations between Earth and the "space-ship" near Mercury replies are immediate. The speed of light (and radio waves) is 186000mi/sec 300000km/sec so there should be a delay of 7 minutes both ways.
Originally, Mercury is going to pass by Earth at twice the distance of the Moon. Mercury has double the mass of the Moon. Using the inverse square law, the effect on Earth would be a half that of the Moon - bad, but not as disastrous as they're making out.
All of the cars that fall back to earth are burning on the inside, for no apparent reason.