Meteor Hits, Asteroid Misses, Politicians Never Waste an Opportunity to Exploit

Could collective action be the answer anyway?


not the near miss
Russian Emergency Ministry

A 7700-ton meteor hit Russia early this morning, and a 150-foot asteroid passed safely within 20,000 miles (closer than satellites in geosynchronous orbit) of the Earth this afternoon. The two incidents are not related, according to scientists, but perhaps came too close to each other to avoid being lumped together. For politicians it's a reason for more "investments." Via Politico:

"Developing technology and research that enable us to track objects like Asteroid 2012 DA14 is critical to our future," said the Texas Republican [Lamar Smith], who is also chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, in his committee statement. "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. "Today's events are a stark reminder of the need to invest in space science."

Not for lack of money, the Vice Chair added:

"We have been spending millions to find and track asteroids and comets, but the indications are that this one was so small that we aren't even looking for objects of this size," [Dana] Rohrabacher said in his own statement. "What concerns me even more, however, is the fact that we have no plan that can protect the Earth from any comet or asteroid. So, even if we find one that will hit us, we might not be able to deflect it."

The meteor that hit Russia was so small, in fact, that such a hit occurs every few years. Via the Boston Globe:

Experts say smaller strikes happen five to 10 times a year. Large impacts such as the one Friday in Russia are rarer but still occur about every five years, according to Addi Bischoff, a mineralogist at the University of Muenster in Germany. Most of these strikes happen in uninhabited areas where they don't injure humans.

Russia has the most land area of any country in the world, so it gets a good portion of those meteors that don't hit the two thirds of the Earth covered in ocean. The largest impact event in recorded history happened in Russia, some 1500 miles from today's, in 1908.

And aside from the fact that work's being done on the science and mechanics of asteroid deflection, when in 2010 the U.S. government was trying to figure out which agency would work on planetary protection, Reason's Brian Doherty rightly asked why asteroids are assumed to be an American problem in the first place. Ronald Bailey, meanwhile, laid out the argument for government action on planetary defense in 2005.

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  1. Is there a new definition of “investment” going around these days?

  2. At some point Reason and the associated journalists may want to mention the B612 Foundation, which I think most of the commentariat are tired of me bringing up. They are doing FAR more than any other government organization to genuinely resolve this particular issue once and for all.

    Do you guys even read these comments or what?

    1. Maybe they all use reasonable…

    2. Stop repeating yourself. Stop repeating yourself. Stop repeating yourself.

  3. So now we’re being bombarded with asteroids?

    I blame global warming.

    1. How did you know?…..360683868/

    2. I thought the new term is “cosmic debris”

  4. I’m just wondering how scientists can definitively state that the meteor and the asteroid weren’t related. Can they rule out the meteor being a breakaway fragment of the asteroid? And how would they be able to do that, given that nobody had any inkling that the meteor was coming?

    1. Math and science.

    2. Looks like the meteor and the asteroid were on totally different trajectories:


      2. Did it have anything to do with 2012 DA14?

      The arrival of the Russian meteor on the day of a close flyby by asteroid 2012 DA14 is just a weird cosmic coincidence. Videos of the Russian object show it traveling north to south, NASA has found. Asteroid DA14 is traveling south to north. The different trajectories reveal that the two space rocks are completely unrelated ? other than reminding Earthlings that we live in a solar system full of flying shrapnel.

    3. Drone bomb them both just to be safe

    4. I trust they know what they’re talking about. They wouldn’t pass up the chance for more funding for further research for nothing.

    5. Even if a fragment for some reason broke off, it has the exact same trajectory and velocity as the asteroid itself. It requires another force to change that path. What you describe could only happen because of an impact with yet another body knocking off a fragment that just happens to head towards Earth. Which would be extremely unlikely. Like “no fucking way” unlikely.

      1. Like “Bruce Willis sacrifices himself blowing up an asteroid so his daughter can marry Ben Affleck” unlikely?

        1. Exactly. A much more likely scenario is a group of no-names led by Robert Duvall accidentally nuking it in half.

          1. I can’t decide if I preferred Deep Impact because I had a better makeout session in the theater during that one, or if I had a better makeout session because I preferred Deep Impact. A question for the ages.

            1. If you were making out during every Frodo scene, that might go a long way toward explaining it.

              I mean it’s not Criterion-worthy, but overall it is a much better movie.

              1. Hugh, you just blew my mind.

                And Epi, I just realized that in earlier threads we (probably not you, probably AM links) have totally talked about this same movie theater before, in which, yes, I was a total whore.

                1. I’m upset that I missed that, nicole, because then I could have talked about all the movie theaters I’ve been a total whore too.

              2. I mean it’s not Criterion-worthy…

                What. The. Fuck. I thought those people had some taste.

            2. Was it because you’re a whore? Because you are a total whore.

              1. Epi, you’re the reason there were no women in Deep Impact.

                1. [Insert another Armageddon reference here]

                2. Uh, Hugh, I’m pretty sure that’s the casting director’s fault. And your mom’s.


            3. I think you preferred Deep Impact because it sounds more carnal.

            4. I got blown on a couch while watching Armageddon. I was tempted to ask if she was fantasizing about Bruce Willis or Ben Affleck, but then I realized I didn’t care. Anyway, Armageddon is a much better movie.

              1. Which one were you fantasizing about?

                1. Steve Buscemi.

                  1. HAWT

                    1. Well in Deep Impact the asteroid actually hits the Earth and kills a bunch of people, it’s hard to argue that the one where a ton of people die is better than the “noble sacrifice” film.

                    2. Armageddon is more of an affront to physics than Deep Impact, at least until Frodo tries to outrun the tsunami.

                      My stepmother was personally offended that the Dr. Strangelove plan for keeping a remnant of humanity alive excluded people over childbearing age.

      2. Dumbass. Plasma torpedoes have the power to send rocks in opposite directions.

        1. I can reconfigure Earth’s main deflector dish, if you want.

          1. How long will that take?

            1. How many minutes are left in the episode (not counting commercials)?

              1. Well you’ve got half that many!!

                1. Unless you people on the bridge start taking showers with your clothes on, my engines can pull us out of anything. We’ll be warping out of orbit within a half second a’ getting your command.

      3. There is enough small particles and radiation and gravitational forces in the universe that objects do slowly decay as they travel through space. Its why comets have tails. The velocity and direction of small particles that fall off of larger ones get changed slightly.

        1. Slightly, not over 100 degrees.

          1. No. I’m thinking within a couple degrees. This is in response to Episiarch thinking fragments always have the exact same trajectory and velocity. A couple degrees difference (or differing curvature) can obviously add up to thousands of miles of separation over a few years.

    6. Can they rule out the meteor being a breakaway fragment of the asteroid?

      From angle of decent yes they could and in fact did that and ruled it out as related

      Also one assumes the meteor would be moving at a similar speed as the asteroid…which is probably around 25km per second….if the meteor was moving that fast it would not crawl across the sky….it would look more like a lightning bolt.

      1. Once a meteroid hits atmo, it slows down a lot.

        1. Unless it’s bigger than 50 feet across. The recent Russian meteor was small so it slowed down considerably. The big one that just passed -2012DA14- would still be traveling pretty close to its original speed before impact, meaning you wouldn’t “see” it per se. If you were in the impact zone the last thing you would see before you died would be a white flash of light.

  5. All that NASA and DoD money yet we still have no defenses against a “doomsday” asteroid or comet.

    Is government incompetent? YES.

    1. WE are the government. The NASA policy is a reflection of what we want through the election of our leaders. Obviously, we haven’t demanded comet and asteroid defense. Next election, let’s demand that NASA do that.

    2. How do we know there isn’t a plan? I think its likely there is some kind of plan, even if the plan is just nuke the shit out of it.

      1. There is a plan. It’s a lot like the Deep Impact plan of survival bunkers, except there’s only enough room for the government, police, military, and their immediate families.

        1. I’ve been kicking around the idea for a novel where an incoming asteroid leads causes our government betters to hunker in their bunkers. But the asteroid misses and people realize how little they need the government, police, military etc. and so barricade the entrance to the bunkers to keep the fuckers from getting out.

          1. You too?

            I wrote a short-story when I was in high school about an aborted nuclear war in which the precious TOP!! MEN!! didn’t get the word and stayed locked up in the bunkers for 15 years waiting for the fission daughters to decay away and arise to find a society that has come to grips with nearly being annihilated by their war-bonering and is completely uninterested in their attempts to reestablish control.

        2. Also they’ll need some dogs to shoot

  6. It is a very hard task trying to think up a Yakov Smirnoff joke for this. Something referencing the video game “Asteroids” is obviously appropriate, but the wording is tricky. Anyone got one yet?

    1. In Soviet Russia, meteors impact…you?

      It’s funny because it’s true?


        1. AT LEAST I TRIED.

          1. This is Evening at the Improv all over again.

            1. So these two parasitic worms bore into a human’s head…

              1. “We do whatever we want to whomever we want at all times.”

            2. At least this time his heaves were dry.

    2. Best one so far, seen on facebook: “In Soviet Russia space explores you”

      1. Ed, I agree.

        Epi, you get a star for trying.

    3. In America, you sit around with joystick in your hand and blow up asteroids. In Soviet Union, you sit with joystick in your hand and asteroid blows up you!

      That’s all I got…

      1. That may be too dirty for Yakov too, he’s a pretty clean act

        1. Not bad.

          I agree with you about his act. Hasn’t he become a Branson fixture?

  7. So the obvious question is:

    Who is going to dig the sucker up and make a cool sword out of it?

    1. Wow, you mean I’m NOT the only one who read that Jack Whyte series?

      1. Swords and other weapons made from meteoric iron are a pretty common trope in fiction.

        Also IRL.

        1. I was too busy banging Epi’s mom to read THAT much sci-fi.

          1. Yeah but if you were reading the tattoos on her back it’s the same thing pretty much

    2. Turin Turambar?

    3. Sokka, obviously.

  8. Reason’s Brian Doherty rightly asked why asteroids are assumed to be an American problem in the first place.

    Tragedy of the commons , Bitches!!!!

  9. Brian Doherty rightly asked why asteroids are assumed to be an American problem

    Why does Brian Doherty hate brown (and yellow) people?

  10. Doherty rightly asked why asteroids are assumed to be an American problem in the first place.

    Because America has totally made space its fuck bitch.

    1. She was totally asking for it with that big, stardazzled, gaping void just sitting there, taunting us for thousands of years.

  11. Jesus Fuck People! We’ve been investing in America since the 60s, when are we going to see some ROI?

    1. America just needs 10 more years and fifty trillion dollars.

    2. It’s because people haven’t been capitalizing Investment. Once you do, you see how important it is and the results come rolling in! Invest in America now!

      1. By capitalizing investment, do you mean perhaps executing people and taking their heads? I could go for something like that.

        1. If It Involves A Lot Of Capital Letters, Capitalizing Investment That Way Would Be As Good As Anything. Remember, All The Government Has To Do Is Spend The Money And Boom! Automatic Slowed Economic Growth. Invest!

  12. This meteor was too small for early detection.

    Seriously, meteor impacts and even super calderas, such as Yellowstone, are worth much more research and dollars spent, than bullshit like global warming.

    A meteor of the size of the one that just passed by us could have potentially wiped out a large city with a direct hit. The meteor that supposedly killed the dinos, was only 6 miles wide and made an impact crater more than 100 miles across and 25 miles deep. It’s hard to imagine, but it’s the speed of the object that does so much damage.

    We should spend money on real threats like this, instead of imaginary threats that only serve to enrich corrupt politicians. If the human race goes extinct one day, I really believe that there is a 99%+ probability that it will be the fault of corrupt politicians.

    1. Yeppers. Real risks we ignore. Fake risks we panic about.

      1. Real risks we ignore. Fake risks we panic about.

        Because they can’t fudge the results of government action taken in order to mitigate a real risk. Since CC is a crock of ass, they can claim success at some point.

    2. Well, the proportion of earth’s surface taken up by cities is vanishingly small, and these bolite airbursts happen at essentially random points on the surface. Plus I’m skeptical that any technology we have now or are anywhere near having could deflect an asteroid… we have means to deploy enough energy (nukes), but not in a controlled fashion. You have to produce an energetic enough shockwave to deflect it, but not energetic enough to break it apart. That would be tough especially without knowing anything about the asteroid’s interior.

      It seems like one of those problems where throwing money at it would be like hiring nine pregnant women to produce a baby in a month.

      1. Of course, sitting on a target, knowing for a fact that the target will be hit. . .what should we do again? Nothing?

  13. I heard that the reason for so much dash cam video is that traffic accident fraudsters are such a threat in Russia. And so everyone keeps a dash cam to use in court.

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