Yesterday around 12:30 p.m. a large meteor passed ever so close to earth. Just before it did, a meteorite hurled into the earth’s atmosphere, exploding and crashing in Siberia, Russia injuring nearly 1,000 people. This sounds like something out of a science fiction movie – but it actually happened.
When we think of asteroids and meteorites, most of us think of doomsday stories or the extinction of the dinosaurs. Not often do we think of these space rocks actually entering and affecting our everyday lives.
But, recently they have done just that – entered our lives on two separate days.
As I awoke Friday morning, I read the news of an incident in Siberia. One thousand people were injured because of a freak occurrence – a meteorite entered the earth’s atmosphere and came hurdling towards the Russia. Just before crashing, the meteorite exploded due to the vast speed at which it was traveling – more than 54,000 kilometers per hour.
Because of the speed and size of the meteorite – 10 tons – the explosion was so fierce it was the equivalent of a nuclear explosion. As this occurred nearly 32 miles above the earth’s surface, or about the same height that airplanes fly, people below became frightened, some declared the end of the world. The result was an explosion that shattered windows in buildings and injured nearly 1000 people.
Although this meteorite was a surprise, some have hypothesized that the meteorite originated from the massive Manhattan sized meteor that narrowly missed our planet yesterday. The meteor was no surprise nor did it ever worry scientists or citizens.
All along, scientists informed the world of this event. Probably not many of us paid too much attention to the meteor event. But, we should have.
The lack of attention and the lack of excitement is an example of how far the U.S. has fallen from its ranks in science and in space exploration.
In the late 1950s Russian satellite Sputnik entered the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. watched fervently as this occurred during the Cold War. We wondered and worried what the satellite might actually be. More importantly, it encouraged the U.S. to better its science in order to better its space program – and we did.
Today, sadly, we watch as our space program has taken many steps backward. Our science students rank in the teens compared to the rest of the world. We have gone from the leader in math and science, to falling well behind the curve.
So, when as the massive meteor came ever so close to the earth, we barely watched. When the meteorite exploded just above Russia, not many people realized there was a meteor as close to the earth as there has been in a very long time.
It’s time for our country to give more time and money to science and math. As we fall behind in many areas, we ask what the problem is. Yet, we continue to fail to adequately budget for education. We continue to fail to appropriately address our science and math issues. When a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event occurs and we barely blink an eye, we have a problem. It’s time to fix our education. It’s time to give more to science and math.