November 8, 2011
Tuesday was one of those days you're glad doesn't happen often.
OK, you may not have noticed if you didn't read the story, but an asteroid came closer to Earth than the moon is. The moon is about 239,000 miles from Earth, and this rock the size of an aircraft carrier came through at about 202,000 miles.
Considering we measure distance in space in light-years -- 1 light year is equal to 6 trillion miles -- that was close.
Fortunately most objects that big don't come anywhere near us. Jupiter plays a big part in that, providing a huge gravitational pull that will suck up bodies that might otherwise slam into us. Take a look at what seems to be the brightest star in the night sky right now and thank our big brother of the solar system.
In other good news from the world of space, NASA has moved up its testing of the Orion space capsule by three years. Instead of waiting around for its own rocket system to propel the Apollo-like capsule into space, the AP reports that NASA will use private sector rockets.
I'm guessing that most people at NASA, let alone in the US, won't like hitching a ride with the Russians to space. It really is sad considering how much effort and risk was put into beating the Russians to the moon in the 1960s. The countries have friendlier relations now, but I would still rather our men and women ride our own vehicles into space.
Could this news be partially in response to news of Russians emerging from a simulated mission to Mars inside a sealed off chamber? Perhaps. Then news of Russia launching a probe to Phoebe, one of Mars' moons, comes later.
It seems to me that mother nature might be egging us on. We needed a uniting challenge in the 1960s to get us through Vietnam and other bad news dominating the country. With the economy taking its sweet time to get back on its feet, maybe an old-fashioned space race with the Russians is exactly what we need.
Michael Buckelew is part of the digital team for SCNI, the parent company of the Gwinnett Daily Post.
In response to:
LOS ANGELES — An asteroid as big as an aircraft carrier zipped by Earth on Tuesday in the closest encounter by such a massive space rock in more than three decades. Scientists ruled out any chance of a collision but turned their telescopes skyward to learn more about the object known as 2005 YU55.