Guarding Earth: Meteor Strike a Cosmic Wake-Up Call

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Scientists are still scratching their heads over last week's cosmic coincidence: The biggest meteor to hit Earth in more than 100 years struck Russia just hours before a massive asteroid made a close pass.

The incident has scientists, the United Nations, and even Congress searching for ways to better identify asteroids that could threaten Earth.

The meteor that exploded over Russia carried the explosive force of 20 Hiroshima bombs. Only hours after the meteor hit Russia, a 150-foot asteroid missed earth by only 17,000 miles.

NASA officials say there was no connection between the two. Still, they say it's a chilly reminder of the threat that asteroids can pose to Earth.

Experts say this could be a cosmic warning shot and a reminder to continue to invest in space science.

"Twenty years ago, if 2012 DA-14 flew by Earth, we would never have known it," Jim Green, Ph.D., a NASA scientist, said.

The United Nations and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee announced plans to investigate the threat of asteroids to Earth.

One former NASA astronaut is already developing a plan to detect asteroids. It's a deep space telescope called Sentinel, and it could give Earth decades of advance warning when something major was heading our way.

"With 10, 20, 30 years notice, it is fairly easy to deflect an asteroid," Ed Lu, CEO of the B612 Foundation, said.

Lu said his project will cost about $450 million and is hoping to raise the money through public donations. He said it's a small price to pay when you think of the alternative.

Officials estimate it will cost more than $33 million to repair damage from the Russian meteor.

"How could we let our civilization or parts of our cities go away - be destroyed if we could do something about it?" Lu asked.

In 2010, a National Research Council report called for Congress to provide more funds for a space agency effort to find asteroids bigger than a football field.

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