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June 18, 2013 | Deborah Netburn
NASA is getting serious about protecting the Earth from asteroids, and the space agency wants your help. If you have thoughts on how NASA can efficiently identify potentially hazardous asteroids, or ideas for improving the agency's preliminary plans for capturing an asteroid and dragging it into lunar orbit in 2017, NASA officials want to hear from you. "Too often, by the time we present a mission to the public, it has already been baked, and...
June 8, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
An asteroid the size of a truck zipped past Earth on Friday night, and you probably missed it. Asteroid 2013 LR6 is 30 feet in length, or a bit more than half the size of the space rock that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February. It made its closest approach to our planet on Friday night at 9:42 p.m. PDT, according to a release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. At that time, the asteroid was just 65,000 miles from the Earth's surface, or about a quarter of the average distance between Earth and the moon.
May 31, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
Massive and dark, with a moon all its own, asteroid 1998 QE2 will fly safely past Earth on Friday afternoon, and you can watch it live, right here. The live video feed will start at 1:30 p.m. PDT. The space rock's closest approach to Earth will take place at 1:59 p.m. The asteroid is estimated to be 1.6 miles in length -- large enough to cause global extinction if it hit our planet. Fortunately, there is absolutely no chance that will happen. Even at its closest approach Friday afternoon, the asteroid will still be 3.6 million miles from the Earth, or 15 times farther away than the moon.
May 30, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
When asteroid 1998 QE2 makes its closest approach to Earth on Friday, it will not be traveling alone: The massive space rock is hurtling through space accompanied by its own moon. It is not unheard of for an asteroid to have a moon, or satellite, accompanying it on its journey, but it is rare. Just 16% of asteroids that are 655 feet across or larger are part of a binary or triple system,  according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Asteroid 1998 QE2's moon was revealed when NASA scientists were finally able to get a closer look at the incoming asteroid using the 230-foot Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif.
May 24, 2013 | By Paul Whitefield
“What could go wrong?” If you're a woman, you've undoubtedly heard this phrase -- probably more than once -- from your father/grandfather/husband/boyfriend/male friends, shortly before the aforementioned types did something really dumb . It's a guy thing -- and yes, ladies, you already know the answer, even if you politely keep quiet and let the carnage occur. So many of you probably weren't that surprised when you read that a trucker hauling an oversize load took out a bridge in Washington state Thursday.
May 24, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden dropped by JPL on Thursday to outline the agency's plans to capture an asteroid, and to look at a model of a powerful new ion thruster that has enough strength to drag a space rock into orbit around the moon. NASA unveiled a multistep plan to rendezvous with a smallish asteroid, put it in what looks like a giant reflective garbage bag, and bring it into lunar orbit, earlier this year. Once the space rock is in a stable orbit around the moon, astronauts could land on it and bring small chunks of it back to Earth.
May 17, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn, This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
It's 1.7 miles long. Its surface is covered in a sooty black substance similar to the gunk at the bottom of a barbecue. If it impacted Earth it would probably result in global extinction. Good thing it is just making a flyby. Asteroid 1998 QE2 will make its closest pass to Earth on May 31 at 1:59 p.m. PDT. Scientists are not sure where this unusually large space rock, which was discovered 15 years ago, originated from. But the mysterious sooty substance on its surface could indicate it may be the result of a comet that flew too close to the sun, said Amy Mainzer, who tracks near-Earth objects at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge . It might also have leaked out of the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, she said.
May 1, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
Asteroid (101955)1999 RQ36 doesn't really roll off the tongue, but asteroid Bennu? That's an asteroid that a person, a country and the world can get excited about. This week, NASA announced that 9-year-old Michael Toler Puzio of North Carolina had won an international student contest to name the asteroid that NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission plans to sample in 2019. The third-grader's entry, Bennu, is the name of an avian deity in ancient Egypt that often takes the form of a blue heron.
April 10, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
How do you capture an asteroid that is zipping through space, move it into a stable orbit around the Earth-moon system stable enough that an astronaut can visit it? NASA has some ideas. In a new video released Wednesday, the space agency illustrates how its Asteroid Retrieval Initiative might work. The video was released just as NASA disclosed its 2014 budget proposal, which includes $105 million to study the feasibility of capturing an asteroid 23 to 32 feet in diameter. The animation is cool to look at -- an unmanned spacecraft flies into space, and releases what looks like a giant layered garbage bag out its rear.
April 10, 2013 | By Richard Simon
WASHINGTON - As if you don't have enough to worry about, consider the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday: asteroids that may be headed toward Earth. The good news: NASA is tracking most of the largest asteroids - the kind that a witness said "would likely end civilization" were they to hit. "None of these civilization-enders thus far discovered is known to be on an impact course any time in this upcoming century," Ed Lu, a former astronaut who heads a group working to launch a space telescope to track threatening asteroids, told the House Space, Science and Technology Committee.
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