Asteroid close pass highlights need to investigate NEAs via NASA missions

February 15, 2013 by Chris Bergin

Following 2012 DA14?s close pass to Earth on Friday, asteroids once again found their way into the general public’s consciousness. 2012 DA14 was not – as Hollywood movies like to depict – a giant planet killer, but it did highlight NASA’s interest in learning more about Near Earth Asteroids (NEA), which includes sending humans out to visit them in deep space.

Big Day for Space Rocks:

The arrival of 2012 DA14 was predicted well in advance and was never a threat to the planet. However, Friday began with news from Russia of a space rock – just a few metres across – exploding in Earth?s atmosphere above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia at about 03:15 UTC.

Numerous videos began to surface on the internet, showing a fireball and explosion consistent with a meteor up to a few metres in size exploding in the atmosphere, possibly several kilometers in the sky.

The resulting shockwave caused significant damage on the ground, shattering windows and blowing in doors – causing injuries to several hundred people.

NASA and ESA were fast to claim the meteor was unlikely to be related to 2012 DA14.

“Current information, which is not yet complete nor confirmed, points to a small asteroid,” said Detlef Koschny, Head of Near-Earth Object activity at ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme office.

“There is no way it could have been predicted with the technical means available today. What can be said with near certainty is that this object has no connection with asteroid 2012 DA14.”

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