How many of you have heard about the Meteorite, or small asteroid as it’s been called, that entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia on February, 15, 2013; many, some, a few residents on the planet? Did you think it was a hoax, conspiracy, something that the Russian government, you were told, conjured up? Were you also told that Russia is the mother land of conspiracy theories? Perhaps you’re even skeptical of our own government. And who could blame you, especially after the American government insults its citizen’s intelligence by asking them to believe that cockamamie magic bullet theory. A theory that should have been dead on arrival, but in order to pin President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Lee Harvey Oswald it was devised. Lone gunman my a**. OK, let me settle down and get to my point. It seems that reports of 1,200 injured Russians, following impact of an unusually large meteor is proving true as Russian scientists have discovered fragments of a meteor that exploded over the country’s central Urals. According to the web blog, Scientific American, the object that exploded in a fireball over Chelyabinsk, released hundreds of kilotons of energy, damaging thousands of buildings and injuring hundreds of people in it’s wake. The arrival of the Chelyabinsk meteor, now known as Chelby, surprised everyone, as NASA scientists tracked much larger near-Earth asteroids that pass between Earth and our network of geosynchronous satellites. In fact, that’s exactly what NASA was doing on the same day Chelby hit Russian soil. What does this all mean? And how come news coverage detailing this ominous event has almost entirely disappeared from the front pages of U.S. newspapers? These are questions that cannot be immediately answered, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be asked. Unforeseen surprise events like Chelby reminds us that we face real danger from space. Therefore, perhaps the most important question we should ask, is since it’s likely that a meteorite or asteroid will suddenly strike the planet, as NASA scientists have confirmed, what are we doing to protect ourselves from an impromptu strike in the future?
In the weeks that followed Chelyabinsk’s meteorite shock, John Holdren, the President’s science adviser, has stated that funding for cataloging dangerous space rocks is insufficient at best, though records indicate NASA’s budget has risen over the last few years. According to a report in last weeks Los Angeles Times, “NASA administrator Charles Bolden reckons it will… take until 2030 to spot 90 per cent of the smaller NEOs between 140m and 1km at [the current] level of funding.”
Most scientists concur that there may be millions of similarly sized objects in the solar system. Few have been identified, as the practical use of current equipment is technically unable to see objects as small as Chelby, particularly while the meteorite is moving at high speeds. Presently, NASA is only capable of tracking much larger dino-killers and other potentially catastrophic asteroids. Consequently, after the Chelby surprise, we now have scientific confirmation that the earth and it’s inhabitants are vulnerable to indefensible life-threatening strikes from beyond our skies.
The Russian meteorite triggered a recent review by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Congressman Lamar Smith, the committee’s chair, has publicly admitted,”The smaller they are, the harder they are to spot, and yet they can be life-threatening.”
According to the LA Times website, “Smith said there was no way NASA was “going to somehow defy budget gravity and get an increase when everyone else is getting cuts”, but said “we need to find ways to prioritize NASA’s projects.”
Asteroid-hunting is quite an expensive project as Bolden disclosed to the committee. Moreover, the NASA administrator remarked that “US spending cuts, known as sequestration, will affect NASA’s [future] plans and projects.”
Interestingly, the most important advice Bolden gave to the committee, suggested that “if we want to save the planet, because I think that’s what we’re talking about, then we have to get together … and decide how we’re going to execute that plan.”
At some point, Congressman Bill Posey asked Bolden a question that we as Americans should demand an answer from congress as to what our strategies would be if a planet-threatening asteroid was discovered with only three weeks warning.
Though Bolden found himself placed in an uncomfortable predicament , he nevertheless replied: “The reason I can’t do anything in the next three weeks is because for decades we have put it off.”
Perhaps, many Americans’ reading this article, who are only now becoming acquainted with this sudden new threat from outer-space, are wondering why this story isn’t an alarming immediate U.S. concern. If you feel this way, then like me you want answers now, not tomorrow. The threat is a matter of immediate national security and it doesn’t appear as though it’s being treated that way. We have to speak up now, no putting this to the side for our children to have to work out. After all, another event like Chelby could wipe out all hope of our children ever being born, let alone surviving a sudden meteorite strike.
As to this date, March
D. Chandler contributed to this report.