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Skywatchers in certain parts of the world will have the chance to see a large asteroid flying near the Earth Friday, while a space prospecting company claimed the object could be worth $195 billion.
Asteroid DA14 will fly within 17,200 miles from the surface of the Earth “and will pass interior to the geosynchronous satellites and the GPS satellites, but there’s really no chance of the asteroid hitting the Earth and very little chance it will hit a satellite,” said NASA in a press release this month. The object is about half the size of a football field (150 feet) in diameter.
“This is a record-setting close approach,” Don Yeomans, a scientist with NASA’s Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told CNET. “Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we’ve never seen an object this big get so close to Earth.”
NASA added that the asteroid is going to be brighter than most objects in the sky, but people will still not be able to see it with their naked eyes.
In 1908, an object with a size similar to asteroid DA14 “exploded” in the Earth’s atmosphere and leveled trees over 820 square miles in northern Russia. It was later named the “Tunguska event” after the Tunguska River in northern Russia.
But NASA stressed that “close approach of this object 2012 DA 14 on Feb. 15 is nothing to worry about.”
“Its orbit is very well known. We know exactly where it’s going to go and it cannot hit the Earth,” the space agency said.
Deep Space Industries, a company that is looking to mine asteroids, claimed that DA14 could be worth as much as $195 billion in minerals, metals, and propellant, according to an exclusive report from Network World.
The company, which announced in January that it wants to launch an asteroid mining mission, claimed that if 5 percent of the DA14 asteroid’s mass was comprised of recoverable water, it might be worth $65 billion, to use as rocket fuel in space. If 10 percent consists of iron, nickel, and other metals, that would be worth $130 billion.
The company noted that these figures are rough estimates, and it is likely using news of the asteroid to generate interest in its mining efforts.
Deep Space plans to launch a series of small, 55-pound spacecraft called Fireflies by 2015 to explore asteroids, followed by 70-pound DragonFlies, which can bring back samples. Space mining missions could potentially begin in 2020 after the DragonFlies return.
No ‘Killer Asteroid’ on the Horizon
And with reports that an asteroid would fly by on Friday, Russian media earlier this week claimed that another, “killer asteroid” would careen into Earth in 2106.
The 2012 YQ1, a different asteroid discovered two weeks ago by Russian astronomers Andrey Oreshko and Timur Kryachko, “will, in all likelihood, crash into Earth, but not until 2106,” a report from the Voice of Russia said. The report was titled, “We have 93 years left till the next End of the World: killer asteroid to hit Earth in 2106.”
“It is quite probable that many of the Y2K generation will live to see the massive asteroid hitting the Earth with their own eyes,” it continued.
Richard Binzel, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told USA Today on Tuesday that the Russian article “looks like a rogue report,” noting that the NASA risk table does not show the 2012 YQ1 as a problem.
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