House committee to hold hearing on asteroid threat

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing on how to “better identify and address asteroids that pose a potential threat to Earth,” Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in a statement on Friday.


The announcement comes after a meteorite exploded in a massive blast above Siberia that damaged buildings, houses and cars and injured about 1,000 people on Friday.

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"The light was so intense that it completely illuminated the courtyard of our apartment block," said Sergei Zakharov, head of the Russian Geographical Society in Chelyabinsk, according to The Wall Street Journal. "The sound, the shock wave came around six minutes later. No one could understand what had happened. I'd compare it to the explosion of a large flare bomb."

The blast was unrelated to another rare meteorological event on Friday — a 150-foot-long asteroid passed within 17,000 miles of Earth. It’s the closest encounter of its kind on record, passing within the orbit of many man-made satellites.

“Today’s events are a stark reminder of the need to invest in space science,” Smith said. “Asteroid 2012 DA14 passed just 17,000 miles from Earth, less than the distance of a round trip from New York to Sydney. And this morning, a much smaller meteorite hit near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, damaging buildings and injuring hundreds."
 
"Developing technology and research that enable us to track objects like Asteroid 2012 DA14 is critical to our future," Smith said. "We should continue to invest in systems that identify threatening asteroids and develop contingencies, if needed, to change the course of an asteroid headed toward Earth.”