Meteor detonates over Russia, or This is why we need NASA

By » Fri, February 15 2013

“After the flash, nothing happened for about three minutes. Then we rushed outdoors The door was made of glass, a shock wave made it hit us,” said Yekaterina Melikhova.

Later Friday, an asteroid known as the 2012 DA14 as due to come within 17,100 miles of Earth at 2:24 p.m. ET, a record close-approach for an asteroid this size.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.

“At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies” to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

We don’t have a way to stop planet-killers (although 2012 DB14 isn’t). Not that people don’t have good ideas, but most—if not all, still the most viable solutions—we can’t put into motion. We don’t have a heavy-lift space platform, because we retired the Shuttle.

And even still, the Shuttle wasn’t the most powerful, that title is still held by the Saturn rocket. The preeminent vehicle mankind has ever endeavored was the Saturn, which was designed with slide rulers.

A while back I read “Space Chronicles” by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an interesting albeit somewhat repetitive collection of essays. Tyson makes four very strong arguments for why people should be willing to give a latte’s worth of money a year to NASA and why NASA needs to build a new heavy-lift platform.

  • We need to go to Mars. With people. If we ever expect to understand life, answer the question, “How did we get here?” it’ll be on Mars,
  • You can thank NASA for pretty much everything. All your Walkmans and airplanes and microwave ovens can trace a near-direct lineage to the space program, and if we want new science, we need to spend money on it
  • If an asteroid is out to get us, we can’t do jack about it. Russia is keenly aware of this today,
  • A fourth point I can’t ever remember. It was a while back, I read the book right when it came out.

Anyway, shit got real today, this is a stark reminder of how fragile things are. Hug a loved one today, we all got lucky for the trillionth time.

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