Meteor 'Doomsayers' Gain Cred After Russia Blast

Private groups plan to launch detection satellites

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 17, 2013 2:02 PM CST

(Newser) – Advocates for early space-rock detection are speaking up and sounding a lot less looney since that meteor rocked Russia on Friday, the New York Times reports. At least two private groups are planning to launch satellites for early detection and one wants to mine asteroids for useful metals like platinum. "Wouldn’t it be silly if we got wiped out because we weren’t looking?" says a scientist with the group Planetary Resources. "This is a wake-up call from space."

Asteroid jitters began in the 1980s and 1990s, when astronomers nervous about our crater-littered planet began scanning the stars. NASA estimated that 20,000 orbit close enough to cause damage, but the government refused to finance a space telescope. Enter the B612 Foundation, which could launch its own 'scope within 4 years, and Planetary Resources, which is funded by Silicon Valley honchos like Larry Page and Eric Schmidt. "Everybody is calling" since the Russia meteor and another rock's recent fly-by, says a B612 rep. "They see us as the solution."

A circular hole in the ice of Chebarkul Lake where a meteor reportedly struck the lake near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow,  Russia,  Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.
A circular hole in the ice of Chebarkul Lake where a meteor reportedly struck the lake near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.   (AP Photo)
In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, a meteor can be seen on a highway in Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.
In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, a meteor can be seen on a highway in Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.   (AP Photo/Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz)
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