When the asteroid known as 2012 DA14 zooms within 17,200 miles of our planet on Friday, it’ll mark the closest approach by a killer space rock in more than a century. Fortunately, the 150-foot-wide object will pose absolutely no risk to Earth — but over the course of millennia, other asteroids have literally rocked our world.
As safe as Friday’s encounter will be, it’s a reminder that Earth has been vulnerable to cosmic impacts in the past, and will continue to be in the future. That’s why NASA and other agencies are spending millions of dollars to detect more of the estimated 1 million near-Earth objects that could be as threatening as 2012 DA14.
“We are looking at all kinds of partnership possibilities, across universities, space institutions and with the Air Force,” said Lindley Johnson, program executive for the Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters. This week, Johnson and other experts are gathering at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Vienna to discuss the creation of an international asteroid warning network.