Fifty thousand years ago, the mile-wide Meteor Crater was formed when a meteorite 150 feet across smacked into Arizona. Is another like it headed our way?

Asteroid Watch

A team of NASA alums is building a spacecraft to protect Earth – and you can help.

By Bruce Lieberman
Air & Space magazine, January 2013

Forty minutes east of Flagstaff, Arizona, just south of I-40, the desert plain gives no hint of what lies ahead. Then the sudden break in topography comes into focus: a weathered plateau, where 50,000 years ago a nickel-iron meteorite half the size of a football field slammed into the ground at 26,000 mph. The meteorite blasted a crater as deep as the Washington Monument is tall—550 feet—and three-quarters of a mile across, with the force of more than 20 megatons of TNT. Hurricane-force winds ripped across the plain for 20 miles in all directions.

This is the kind of event that Ed Lu thinks about often. A retired NASA astronaut who spent six months aboard the International Space Station in 2003, Lu is the co-founder and CEO of the B612 Foundation, named for the asteroid in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 story, The Little Prince. The non-profit foundation is now focused on an extraordinary mission: raising about $400 million in private philanthropy to build, launch, and operate an infrared space telescope for finding Earth-threatening asteroids. (Asteroids are rocky objects, smaller than planets, orbiting the sun; meteorites are asteroids that have survived passing through the Earth’s atmosphere and hit the ground.) The mission, expected to launch late in 2017 or early 2018, is called Sentinel.

Read more: Asteroid Watch | Space Exploration | Air & Space Magazine.

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