On 15 February 2013, at about 1120hrs (Singapore time), a large fireball was seen streaking above the skies in various regions in Russia and Kazakhstan. Minutes later, a loud blast was heard, and a strong shockwave hit Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia, knocking people off their feet and shattering windows.It was soon established that a 10 ton meteoroid[1] had entered Earth’s atmosphere above Russia and exploded in the air above Chelyabinsk Oblast, with fragments landing in Lake Chebarkul. This is the largest object from the outer space to hit Earth since the Tunguska Event in 1908. NASA experts estimated that events of such magnitude only occur once every 100 years on average.[2]It is estimated that the explosion had energy of 500 kilotons, the explosive power of more than 30 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. It injured about 1500 people, mostly due to the shattered windows caused by the force of the explosion. The economic damage from the meteor strike is estimated to be 1 billion rubles (S$40 million), and the broken windows caused by the explosion meant that many households will have to endure the harsh Russian winter.[3]ReactionsEmergency workers were sent to the area to assist with recovery efforts by the Russian Emergencies Ministry. Expedition teams were also sent to the impact site to scour for any debris from the event.Rumours suggested that the event could be linked to the near-Earth approach of the roughly 30-metre asteroid 2012 DA14 has been debunked by NASA, as the trajectories of both objects were different.[4]There were also calls urging for more effort to be put in to prevent similar incidents from happening again. Given that no space agencies were able to predict the approach of the meteoroid, many expressed worries that similar events could happen in the future with disastrous consequences. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that this event showed that countries remained “vulnerable to meteors” and system is needed to protect the planet.[5] Similarly the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs also urged more resources must be put in to monitor risks from space objects.[6]Ideas and proposals for preventing such system include a monitoring and early warning system to predict and possibly warn affected populations of meteor strikes, and deflecting or blowing up space objects which could threaten Earth. However, the scientific viability of such projects is unknown.Thinking questions1. Should resources be put in to support scientific endeavours to prevent a meteor strike? Consider that the probability of such events are minimal, occurring only once per 100 years on the average.2. Given a meteor strike is a large scale catastrophe which can affect multiple nations, should the project be a multi-national effort? How should the costs of such a project be split? Bear in mind that different countries have different levels of development priorities, scientific expertise, and funds when considering if they should support this project.A meteoroid is debris in the Solar System, while the visible sight of the meteoroid flying through Earth’s atmosphere is called a meteor. It is only called a meteorite when it strikes the ground.[2] http://www.ibtimes.com/russian-meteor-largest-hit-earth-over-100-years-nasa-revises-estimate-1092354[3] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2280920/Meteor-crashed-Russia-largest-space-rock-hit-earth-century-claim-scientists.html?ito=feeds-newsxml[4] http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/asteroid20130215.html[5] http://www.newsroomamerica.com/story/347222/pm_medvedev_says_russian_meteorite_kef-2013_shows_entire_planet_vulnerable_.html[6] http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-15/armageddon-not-in-the-stars-as-
On 15 February 2013, at about 1120hrs (Singapore time), a large fireball was seen streaking above the skies in various regions in Russia and Kazakhstan. Minutes later, a loud blast was heard, and a strong shockwave hit Chelyabinsk Oblast in Russia, knocking people off their feet and shattering windows.

A still from dashboard video recorded in neighbouring Kazakhstan shows the meteor which hit Russia, 15 February. Source: BBC
A still from dashboard video recorded in neighbouring Kazakhstan shows the meteor which hit Russia, 15 February. Source: BBC


It was soon established that a 10 ton meteoroid[1] had entered Earth’s atmosphere above Russia and exploded in the air above Chelyabinsk Oblast, with fragments landing in Lake Chebarkul. This is the largest object from the outer space to hit Earth since the Tunguska Event in 1908. NASA experts estimated that events of such magnitude only occur once every 100 years on average.[2]

It is estimated that the explosion had energy of 500 kilotons, the explosive power of more than 30 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. It injured about 1500 people, mostly due to the shattered windows caused by the force of the explosion. The economic damage from the meteor strike is estimated to be 1 billion rubles (S$40 million), and the broken windows caused by the explosion meant that many households will have to endure the harsh Russian winter.[3]

Reactions
Emergency workers were sent to the area to assist with recovery efforts by the Russian Emergencies Ministry. Expedition teams were also sent to the impact site to scour for any debris from the event.

Rumours suggested that the event could be linked to the near-Earth approach of the roughly 30-metre asteroid 2012 DA14 has been debunked by NASA, as the trajectories of both objects were different.[4]

There were also calls urging for more effort to be put in to prevent similar incidents from happening again. Given that no space agencies were able to predict the approach of the meteoroid, many expressed worries that similar events could happen in the future with disastrous consequences. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that this event showed that countries remained “vulnerable to meteors” and system is needed to protect the planet.[5] Similarly the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs also urged more resources must be put in to monitor risks from space objects.[6]

Ideas and proposals for such systems include a monitoring and early warning system to predict and possibly warn affected populations of meteor strikes, and deflecting or blowing up space objects which could threaten Earth. However, the scientific viability of such projects is unknown.

Thinking questions
1. Should resources be put in to support scientific endeavours to prevent a meteor strike? Consider that the probability of such events are minimal, occurring only once per 100 years on the average.

2. Given a meteor strike is a large scale catastrophe which can affect multiple nations, should the project be a multi-national effort? How should the costs of such a project be split? Bear in mind that different countries have different levels of development priorities, scientific expertise, and funds when considering if they should support this project.


[1] A meteoroid is debris in the Solar System, while the visible sight of the meteoroid flying through Earth’s atmosphere is called a meteor. It is only called a meteorite when it strikes the ground.
[2] Russian Meteor Largest To Hit Earth In Over 100 Years; NASA Revises Estimate
http://www.ibtimes.com/russian-meteor-largest-hit-earth-over-100-years-nasa-revises-estimate-1092354
[3] Meteor that crashed in Russia is the largest to have hit earth in more than a 100 YEARS, claim scientists
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2280920/Meteor-crashed-Russia-largest-space-rock-hit-earth-century-claim-scientists.html?ito=feeds-newsxml
[4] Russia Meteor Not Linked to Asteroid Flyby
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/asteroid20130215.html
[5] PM Medvedev Says Russian Meteorite KEF-2013 Shows "Entire Planet" Vulnerable
http://www.newsroomamerica.com/story/347222/pm_medvedev_says_russian_meteorite_kef-2013_shows_entire_planet_vulnerable_.html
[6] Asteroid Passes Earth as UN Mulls Monitoring Network
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-15/armageddon-not-in-the-stars-as-un-effort-takes-aim-at-asteroids.html