Wake-Up Call From Space

The meteor that streaked across Siberia on February 15th, sending shock waves that exploded glass and injuring over a thousand people, was not predicted and caught the world by surprise.

There was simply a flash in the sky, followed by explosions as the space rock fragmented. Scientists believe that this was the largest meteor to have entered the earth's atmosphere since 1908 which means it was the first meteor to strike the modern industrialized world, shearing the roofs off factories and shattering glass windows in high-rise apartments. Most of the reported 1,158 injuries were caused by shattered glass.

A fourth-grade school teacher saved 44 children from glass cuts by ordering them to hide under their desks, after she saw the flash in the sky.

This event is a wake-up call for better means of detection. America's national space agency, NASA, is being charged with the responsibility to identify meteors and asteroids that pass near the earth.

As far back as the 1980s, astronomers were searching the skies for killer meteors. In 1996, the US Air Force launched a program to search the skies for falling meteors - which was the first government-authorized search.

A NASA report has identified 20,000 asteroids and comets that are near enough to earth to destroy a city if they exploded.

A giant space telescope is being built in California which will be able to identify 90% of the asteroids larger than 460 feet in diameter that pass through the earth's solar system. The telescope will be ready for launching by 2018.