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Above asteroid 2012 DA14 as it flew past Earth.
NASA reports that asteroid 2012 DA14 on Friday Feb. 15 flew through the Earth's Geosynchronous Zone where communications and weather satellites orbit and at 2:25PM ET/11:25am PT to come within 17,200 miles of our planet. NASA says the asteroid is about 150-feet across and was traveling at 17,400 mph. NASA's NEO Program Office predicted it had no chance of hitting the Earth and almost no chance of hitting a weather or communications satellite as it bounces off our atmosphere.
If 2012 DA14 were to hit Earth, the impact would release about 2.5 megatons of energy, causing major devastation, say NASA scientists.
This asteroid was discovered in 2012, by the La Sagra Sky Survey which is operated by the Astronomical Observatory of Mallorca in Spain, when it was about 2.7 million miles away from Earth. Asteroids of this size have been known to strike Earth about every 1,200 years.
In this gallery, we'll look at ways we are studying asteroids and preparing for the worst. Our dear friend, the late Roland Piquepaille, prepared us to save the world with 50 ways to kill an asteroid.
This should give you a better idea of the size of the asteroid. It just a rock but its speed of 17,200 mph gives it the devistating power of a nuclear weapon. Scientists estimate there are over 500,000 asteroids about this size nearby but only 1 percent have been discovered.
Could this asteroid be a weapon hurtled toward Earth by the Klendathu race from "Starship Troopers"?
So, what is NASA doing about it?
Just last week they've launched the Near-Earth Object observation program to study the orbits of these potential threats. Right now, scientists can only track asteroids, which usually travel between 27,000 and 33,000 miles per hour, and warn the public of close calls. NASA has also started serveral basic research and technology demonstration projects to study asteroids and find ways to prevent them from striking Earth.
One of the possibilites reminds us of the movie, "Armegeden" with the use of nukes that could deflect a killer asteroid. Other methods to change an asteroid's course include hitting it with a heavy projectile traveling at high speed (tested by the Deep Impact mission which hit Comet Tempai 1 with an 850 pound copper slug), or using a gravity deflector from a spaceship near enough to slightly change its course. Other research being conducted now include improved Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) systems that could push or pull an asteroid for an extended time, or the use of grappling mechanisms.
NASA has also built a 230-foot Goldstone antenna, near Barstow which is part of NASA's Deep Space network.