Space.com is reporting that a meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere above eastern Russia over the Urals Mountains early Friday morning U.S. time and the resulting sonic boom shattered windows, damaged buildings and injured hundreds.
"This should serve as a wake-up call,’’ said Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, longtime Seal Beach and Newport Beach representative and the vice chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. "We have been looking forward to the close pass of asteroid 2012 DA14, which will pass between the Earth's surface and our communications satellites this afternoon. We have calculated that there is no chance this asteroid will impact the Earth, and that we will get an opportunity for a close-up view as it flies past. Unfortunately, we didn't see the one that exploded over Russia until it happened.’’
Rohrabacher vowed to work on legislation aimed at protecting the country from space debris.
"We have been spending millions to find and track asteroids and comets, but the indications are that this one was so small that we aren't even looking for objects of this size. What concerns me even more, however, is the fact that 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 in a written statement. "This is the only preventable natural disaster, and we have mounting evidence that this a real and tangible danger. Our heartfelt prayers go out to all those affected by this event and this shows that we must protect ourselves, and the planet, from this clear danger. As Vice Chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, I'm working with the Chairman to expedite a hearing on planetary protection from these 'near Earth objects' as soon as we can."
According to Fox News, Russian officials are reporting over 400 people injured from the event, primarily from broken glass shattered in the sonic boom.
"I was driving to work," 36-year-old Viktor Prokofiev, a resident of Yekaterinburg, told Reuters. "It was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day."
As of this posting, no fatalities have been reported.
Videos of the event have turned up all over YouTube. You can view some of the footage in our media section.