If you’re in a funk today about economics, politics and the hopelessness of it all, take a look up at the sky around 2:30 or so this afternoon and consider some of the alternatives.
You won’t be able to see it, but an asteroid the size of a small office building will be zooming its way over the Indian Ocean about that time. It has been called the closest “near miss” astronomers have ever known about in advance – so close that it will be only one-thirteenth the distance between Earth and the moon ... a good 5,000 miles closer than many of the telecommunications satellites orbiting our planet. A cold, lifeless, potato-shaped rock, big enough to cause the damage of a 2.4-megaton atomic bomb if it happens to veer the wrong way and strike Earth.
Feel better now?
Scientists say there is virtually no chance the asteroid will hit us, but the fly-by will be close enough to make us wonder if Bruce Willis is available. (Check out “Armageddon” if you didn’t get that reference).
Interestingly enough, one man’s potentially catastrophic disaster is another man’s iron mine. A California company called Deep Space Industries has estimated that the asteroid known as DA14 contains about $2 billion worth of metal and recoverable water. Heck, that’s almost enough to run a presidential campaign.
Deep Space Industries officials hope to one day be able to tap into those riches – converting water into rocket fuel and metal into spaceship parts.
The rest of us probably don’t dream quite so big. We just hope DA14 stays in space ... where it belongs.