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Russia meteor prompts U.S. lawmakers to call for protective steps

February 15, 2013|By Richard Simon
  • A meteor streaks over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday morning.
A meteor streaks over the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia's Ural Mountains… (Julia Airihk / Itar-Tass…)

WASHINGTON -- As if Congress doesn’t have enough problems on Earth, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) said Friday’s meteor in Russia and asteroid flyby should serve as a wake-up call for lawmakers to consider planetary protection from space objects.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, said he would schedule a hearing to examine ways to better identify and address asteroids that pose a potential threat to Earth.

"What concerns me,’’ said Rohrabacher, the panel’s vice chairman, is that "we have no plan that can protect the Earth from any comet or asteroid.  So, even if we find one that will hit us, we might not be able to deflect it.’’

It’s not a new subject for Rohrabacher, who has sponsored legislation to establish a Commission on Planetary Defense to develop strategies to respond to "potentially dangerous nearEarth objects.’’

Smith said the meteor, which injured hundreds of people and damaged buildings with its shock wave, and the asteroid flyby, which came within about 17,000 miles of Earth, together formed "a stark reminder of the need to invest in space science.’’

"We should continue to invest in systems that identify threatening asteroids and develop contingencies, if needed, to change the course of an asteroid headed toward Earth,’’ Smith said.

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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