For better or for worse, I do my best to stay away from political topics in this little slice of Courier-Post real estate I’m allotted each week. For some, “A Little Salt” is a refuge from mainstream media which often tries to sway how you feel about those in power, and those who would like to be in power. Others might appreciate a break from subjects that in some way, shape or form involve my wife, daughter or both. (Seriously, they applaud not being in the spotlight.)
I’d really planned to go in another direction with today’s column, but in light of events last week I couldn’t help but alter course.
Unless you were sequestered in an underground bunker last Friday, cut off from all outside contact, you likely heard of the meteor which exploded in the sky over Russia’s Ural Mountains region.
Yes, it was a meteor and not the U.S. testing out a new weapon, as was claimed Friday by Russian parliament member Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Ironically, before hearing Zhirinovsky’s claims I’d asked via Twitter how many Russians might have seen the meteor streaking across the sky and wondered if it was an American missile.
The estimated 50-foot wide, 10-ton space rock, reportedly traveling at a speed of 33,000 mph, exploded in the atmosphere with the power of 20 Hiroshima bombs. The resulting shock wave blew out windows in over more than 4,000 buildings in and around Chelyabinsk. Over 1,200 people were injured, mostly suffering cuts from flying glass.
The regional governor promised that all the broken windows would be replaced within a week. That can’t happen soon enough for people in the area, considering that the midday high Friday was just 10 degrees.
While government officials in Russia were busy helping victims, in the U.S., politicians were wringing their hands, saying that something must be done to protect mankind from such events in the future.
According to an article at SPACE.com, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), vice chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said the event in the sky over Russia should serve as a wakeup call.
While astronomers were aware of an asteroid’s close pass to Earth on Friday afternoon, the event over Russia caught most, if not all, in the sky-watching profession by surprise because of its lack of size.
According to Rohrabacher the U.S. has been spending millions of dollars to find and track asteroids and comets, but “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,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - It was reported over the weekend that the U.S. House Science Committee will conduct a hearing in the coming weeks on how to deal with the threat posed by potentially hazardous asteroids.
“This is the only preventable natural disaster, and we have mounting evidence that this a real and tangible danger,” Rohrabacher said in the SPACE.com article. “… This shows that we must protect ourselves, and the planet, from this clear danger.”
Government officials may delude themselves into thinking that with enough Washington wisdom, and your tax dollars, they can protect the masses from anything. But truth be told, some things – asteroids, comets, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and volcanoes – we just may not be able to do anything about.
Rohrabacher may be right about one thing, there could be a bigger lesson to be taken from the incident in Russia. I like the insights offered by a Chelyabinsk clergyman.
“Perhaps God was giving a kind of sign, so that people don’t simply think about their own trifles on earth, but rather look to the heavens once in a while.”