When I was in 7th grade, I didn’t think much about asteroids beyond the then-new video game. For me, the idea of real asteroids shooting through space and possibly hitting Earth was always preposterous. In recent years - like most of us – I read about how certain members in the U.S. Congress were concerned that those giant space objects could come hurtling at us with no warning. The congressional members felt that U.S. should build some type of asteroid defense prevention system. And like most of you out there, I felt that perhaps these members of Congress needed some serious intervention for what seemed like some type of paranoia.
Methinks that those politicians might have been onto something when an asteroid came within 17,000 miles of Earth and a meteor exploded in Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15. As I’m wiping the egg from my face – and I am literally wiping the egg from my face as I make brownies for my daughter – I’m stunned. The multiple recorded video images are disturbing as they show the bright light shooting through the Russian sky and then letting out a massive boom. I don’t know about you, but that boom is disturbing. The boom didn’t come from a backfiring vehicle. It didn’t come from the neighbors’ fireworks. The boom came from a meteor! There are scores of recorded images showing windows being blown out and aftermath of locals who were hurt. According to local officials, about 3,000 buildings were damaged. I posed the question online: Does insurance cover such damage? Under homeowners policies space junk is covered just like anything else that can fly at your house. But, if space junk becomes a regular occurrence, I wouldn’t be surprised with separate policies covering asteroids and meteors.
Space experts say that the February 15th meteor was 7,000 tons and the size of a bus-about 49 feet. Asteroid 2012 DA14 was recorded as being 150 feet and traveled at 17,400 mph. Scientists say that the meteor and asteroid events were a coincidence.
Still, I never would have imagined seeing and reading about these events occurring on the same day well over 30 years after I first knew about asteroids. So, here we are on the morning after these events asking questions. Should there be funding to study asteroid, meteors and/or anything else that could fall from outer space? If funding is granted, will we be able to successfully develop a space defense system against objects invading our planet? As I write this, it sounds unfathomable to me, but February 15th’s events just made the idea real. Indeed, we have much bigger fish to fry, but if and when this nation and others get their fiscal houses in order, should there be some type of asteroid study funding? Many folks over at NASA feel that this funding could be beneficial towards our future.
I don’t about our future, but for now, I’ll try not to think about asteroids, meteors or anything else that could hurtle towards and bake more brownies and try to keep the egg off of my face.