On Saturday a “small army of workers” began cleanup work after the sonic waves from a meteor struck rural Russia Friday morning, reported the Associated Press. The meteor, which took NASA by surprise, injured at least 1,200 people and shattered 50 acres of windows. At least two individuals were reported to be in serious condition on Saturday. A few hours later, a known asteroid (2012 DA14) passed just 17,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Brown University’s Associate Professor of Physics, Ian Dell’Antonio told WPRO the two close calls were an unrelated coincidence.
“Something like [the meteor] happens a couple times a year,” Dell’Antonio told WPRO. “And they’re usually not splashed all over YouTube because they occur in more remote locations. To view YouTube footage of the meteor, click here.
Why did NASA know about the asteroid and not the meteor? Pure luck, says Wired. Most asteroids are never discovered until they enter our atmosphere as meteors, but scientists just happened to look in the right place at the right time and saw the asteroid 2012 DA14.
NASA’s Near-Earth Object (NEO) program finds and tracks objects that could approach earth. Although congress set a deadline of 2020 for scientists to find 90 percent of the near-Earth objects that could cause devastation, the program has been underfunded, reports New Jersey Representative Rush Holt, physicist and former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Holt says NASA would require additional dedicated telescopes to fulfill that mandate.
Approximately 0.05% of NASA’s budget is allocated to the NEO program and NASA’s current budget is only 0.4% percent of the United States’ budget.
What do you think? Should these two close calls be a wake-up to allocate more funds to NASA?