Stargazers, astronomers and Armageddon fans had their eyes glued to a livestreamed feed of the solar system on Wednesday, as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” — the size of four CN Towers — hurtled past Earth.
The massive chunk of space rock, known as 1998 OR2, approached our planet early Wednesday in a relatively close fly-by that posed no threat to life on Earth. It began the approach just before 6 a.m. ET, and was expected to remain relatively close by throughout the day.
Experts said it would be visible to amateur astronomers through a telescope, but it was never anticipated to come any closer than about 6.3 million kilometres to Earth. That’s roughly 16 times the distance between our planet and the moon.
In other words, NASA didn’t even think about tapping Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to stop a dinosaur extinction-level event.
The two-kilometre-wide asteroid would have been big enough to do some serious damage, particularly if it hit Earth at its estimated speed of 30,578 kilometres (19,000 miles) per hour, or roughly 25 times the speed of sound.
The fly-by was set to be an “exceptional opportunity” for astronomers to study the rock, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.
Researchers at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico shared imagery of the asteroid earlier this week. They joked that the asteroid appeared to have brought its own “face mask” in the middle of Earth’s coronavirus pandemic, based on a curved white line that appeared during their scans.
The Virtual Telescope Project in Europe set up a livestream for those who wanted to watch the latter part of the fly-by on Wednesday, beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Scientists have seen this big one coming for over two decades, thanks to a robust international system for spotting and tracking asteroids in our neighbourhood of space. It was dubbed a “potentially hazardous asteroid” due to its sheer size and relatively close flightpath, but experts say there was never any concern that it might hit us.
“This asteroid poses no danger to Earth and will not hit,” astrophysicist Brad Tucker at the Australian National University told the Guardian.
“It is one catastrophe we won’t have,” Tucker said.
He added that the giant rock wouldn’t have wiped out all life on Earth, even if it had been on a collision course with the planet.
“While it is big, it is still smaller than the asteroid that impacted the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs,” he said.
However, the asteroid-tracking system isn’t perfect, as astronomers discovered late last year. That’s when they spotted a potential city-killing asteroid approaching Earth just a few days before it flew past at a distance much closer than the moon.
NASA has said that it would take an asteroid larger than one to two kilometres to alter Earth’s global climate, and one larger than five kilometres to cause a mass extinction event. Those are still relatively tiny compared to the space rock that killed the dinosaurs, which measured an estimated 16 kilometres wide.
No such object is expected to hit the Earth for several hundred years.
Earthlings who live another couple of decades might get a chance to see 1998 OR2 come even closer to our planet in the future, according to NASA data. The asteroid is expected to come within 1.8 million kilometres of Earth on April 16, 2079, according to NASA projections. That’s still about four times the distance from Earth to the moon, and there is no chance of an impact at that time.
“We understand its orbital trajectory very precisely, and we can say with confidence that this asteroid poses no possibility of impact for at least the next 200 years,” NASA said.
The space agency says the asteroid is still considered “potentially hazardous” because slight changes in its orbit could present a danger to the Earth at some distant point in the future.
But don’t worry: you’ll have gone the way of the dinosaurs by the time that happens.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
SpaceX crowds came in droves despite downpours, tornado warning, pandemic – MSN Canada
Space Coast locals and visitors from hundreds of miles away stayed through the drizzle and the downpours – even a tornado warning – before the eventual scrub of the first crewed launch from U.S. soil since 2011.
People hungry to watch history in the making – and perhaps eager to get out of COVID-19-forced isolation – made their way to Cocoa Beach, Space View Park in nearby Titusville, roadways, side streets and front yards across the Space Coast.
Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey told people this month to come watch the scheduled launch in person. The invitation ran contrary to NASA’s recommendation to watch the launch via broadcast.
Crowds, along with heavy rain, poured into coveted viewing spots across Brevard, but the mission was postponed scant minutes before the scheduled 4:33 p.m. launch.
Even after word dropped that the launch was a no-go, many made plans to return for the next attempt, set for Saturday.
“Do you guys want to get a hotel room for Saturday night?” Jake Mills asked after hearing the scrub announcement on his phone via the SpaceX YouTube channel. The Gainesville network engineer and 10 relatives had traveled to the Cocoa Beach Pier to watch the launch.
“Bummed out. But safety first, right?” said Mills, who has friends who work for SpaceX.
“I would rather wait until Saturday for a healthy, safe launch than to bend the rules and launch unsafely,” he said.
SpaceX launching its first human crew to space: Here is everything you need to know
Not many masks were sighted among the onlookers. Crowds were far smaller than for high-profile launches of the past and between the COVID-19 crisis and bad weather, nowhere near the crowd estimates circulating for weeks. NASA had urged spectators to stay away and watch the launch online or on TV because of the pandemic.
Still, by early afternoon, traffic was blocked on the A. Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville. The bridge grew more crowded prelaunch time and became a sea of thousands of pedestrians headed west after the scrub. The Beachline causeway over the Banana River heading east or west was like a wet parking lot by late afternoon.
At Cocoa Beach Pier, which was no more packed than on a sunny, pre-pandemic weekend, the few hundred who braved nasty storms were primed for the event.
Before 10 a.m., surfers were catching waves, and TV crews had positioned their equipment at Rikki Tiki Tavern at the end of the pier, cameras pointed north toward the launch site.
The pier opened at 11 a.m., and a handful of lunchtime patrons filtered in. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was evident: Officials shut down the pier from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. to clean and sanitize the area.
‘We didn’t want to miss it’
About 90 minutes before the scheduled launch time, Gulf Coast resident Olga Cole and her family took refuge beneath the Cocoa Beach Pier during a downpour.
She was born and raised in Moldova, an Eastern European nation that declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. She was raised to revere cosmonauts – but wore a white NASA shirt to witness the historic American launch.
“Because of the past of my country, the USSR, we prize the cosmonauts. But it is a big deal,” the 24-year-old said, holding her 7-month-old daughter, Katherine. “Space is common for everyone.”
Olga and her husband, John, 23, a self-described Elon Musk fan, arrived Tuesday night from St. Petersburg.
Bill and Robbin Dick of The Villages in central Florida paid $40 for two spaces to park their 35-foot Winnebago Sunstar motor home at the pier. By 9 a.m., the couple had extended the vehicle’s awning and set up folding chairs, prepped to watch NASA’s launch coverage on TV.
“It’s a historic launch. We’re retired. And these are things we want to do. We didn’t want to miss it,” said Bill Dick, a retired New York City firefighter.
At Port Canaveral, diners began trickling into Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar just before noon. At 50% capacity, the restaurant holds about 150 people.
“We’re bringing in business, definitely, but it’s not what we’d like to bring in.” said Rusty Fisher, owner. “Just managing people, that’s the big thing, making sure they behave themselves.”
Follow reporter Britt Kennerly on Twitter: @bybrittkennerly
Contributing: Rick Neale, Eric Rogers, Suzy Leonard, Tim Walters, John Torres, Tim Shortt, Craig Bailey, Malcolm Denemark and Jay Cannon of the USA TODAY Network.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: SpaceX crowds came in droves despite downpours, tornado warning, pandemic
Elon Musk on his success: 'America is the land of opportunity – there is no other country where I could have done this' – CNBC
The genre motivated him to create “cleaner energy technology or [build] spaceships to extend the human species’s reach” in the future, according to the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.
With these goals in mind, Musk went on to start SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla in 2003. And now, he is on the precipice of a potentially historic launch for SpaceX on Saturday, as the company plans for its first crewed mission of two NASA astronauts.
Looking back on his success, Musk in part credits the opportunity he found when he emigrated to the United States in 1992.
“America is still the land of opportunity more than any other place, for sure,” he told Vance in a Bloomberg interview published Friday.
Musk was born in South Africa, but always wanted to move to the U.S.
“It always seemed like when there was cool technology or things happening, it was kind of in the United States. So, my goal as a kid was to get to get to America basically,” Musk told Kevin Rose in 2012.
At the age 17, he arrived in North America with only “$2,000, a backpack & a suitcase full of books,” Musk tweeted in June 2018.
“I paid my own way through college—through student loans, scholarships, working jobs—and ended up with $100,000 of student debt. I started my first company [Zip2] with $2,500, and I had one computer and a car that I bought for $1,400, and all that debt,” he told Vance. (Though some critics have alleged that Musk had a privileged life paid for by his family, Musk has said that is not true.)
Despite the challenges, Musk succeeded.
In 1999, Musk sold Zip2 to Compaq for roughly $300 million. Musk used the money from that sale to found X.com, an online financial services platform that merged with Confinity in 2000, and later became PayPal. In 2002, eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion.
These successes led him to start SpaceX and Tesla, along with Neuralink in 2016, and a year later, The Boring Company. Today, Musk is worth $36.8 billion, according to Forbes.
“There is definitely no other country where I could have done this—immigrant or not,” he told Vance.
This story has been updated to reflect the new SpaceX launch date after the initial launch was postponed due to bad weather.
Elon Musk is the Greatest American Industrialist of the 21st Century – American Greatness
It has been fashionable to criticize Elon Musk as lacking the qualities of a true entrepreneur, or not being a genuine free market capitalist. His primary transgression: his companies have taken advantage of government subsidies.
Before considering whether or not these criticisms are fair or justified, or even terribly relevant, it might be a good idea to examine Musk’s body of work. Because so far, 20 years in, this 48 year old immigrant from South Africa arguably is the greatest American industrialist of the 21st century.
Musk’s early work, back in the 1990s, focused on software and online financial services, including PayPal. The sale of his stakes in these companies made Musk wealthy, but what he’s done since then is what secures his place in history.
Tesla, Musk’s best known affiliation, has brought electric cars into the mainstream. It’s easy to forget the risk Tesla’s founders, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, endured back in 2003 when they first bundled laptop batteries into a storage package capable of powering an electric sports car. Recognizing the potential, Musk invested millions in the company and eventually took over as CEO.
Today, 17 years later, Tesla is valued at $151 billion. In 2019 Tesla reported sales of $26 billion and an operating cash flow of $2.6 billion. Its “levered free cash flow” in 2019 (surplus cash after paying interest on debt) was $1.6 billion. According to investors, for whom economic data is paramount, Tesla is the most valuable American car maker of all time.
Elon Musk has accelerated global adoption of all-electric vehicles by making them increasingly affordable and earning unprecedented consumer satisfaction. Critics of what Tesla has accomplished are invited to drive one. But Tesla’s accomplishments go beyond just manufacturing popular electric vehicles.
In Nevada, Tesla has built the largest battery manufacturing plant in the world. This single factory now produces half the global output of electric car batteries. The Tesla Gigafactory also produces the “Powerwall,” a stationary battery that allows homeowners to store surplus electricity.
There are a lot of reasons to remain skeptical regarding renewable energy. But massive investment in battery technology by companies like Tesla has paid off. Solar-battery power plants are now able to deliver continuous electricity at a wholesale price of four cents per kilowatt-hour, and make a profit.
Tesla has also developed a network of charging stations around the nation. If you aren’t driving a Tesla, you might not realize how ubiquitous charging stations have become. Typically installed in the outer reaches of shopping center parking lots, a Tesla driver can see with one tap on the vehicle’s control screen not only where the nearest charging stations are located, but also how many slots are vacant.
All-electric cars are not yet for everyone. But with recharge times down to 30 minutes, and range topping 300 miles, they are looking better every year. They require far less maintenance than gas-powered vehicles, and are becoming more competitive on price every day. Tesla is not just building cars, it is fundamentally transforming our transportation infrastructure.
With all the attention Tesla gets, it’s easy to forget about Space X. But Musk’s accomplishments with this company are even more impressive. Founded in 2002 by Musk, SpaceX is the “first private company to launch and return a spacecraft from Earth orbit and the first to dock a spacecraft with the International Space Station.” The engineering innovations pioneered by Space X are revolutionary, including fully reusable rockets. Vertical landings of booster rockets, after many failed attempts, are now becoming routine.
Before Space X came on the scene, in the late 20th century, the Space Shuttle could deliver payload into low earth orbit at a cost of over $25,000 per kilogram. For a while, the early Space X boosters competed with NASA’s mature Atlas V booster, with costs dropping below $10,000 per kilogram on these unmanned systems. But in 2017 Space X pulled ahead, way ahead, with the Falcon 9 booster profitably delivering cargo into space at a cost of under $2,000 per kilogram, and in 2020 the Falcon Heavy has brought the price under $1,000 per kilogram.
In just a few years, and compared to the best NASA could do, Space X has dropped the price of getting into space by an order of magnitude. And in a few days, American astronauts are going to blast into outer space on an American rocket, built by Space X, for the first time since the Shuttle was retired. How is this not historic?
Musk’s projects extend well beyond electric cars and electric batteries, or paving the way to the colonization of the solar system. His Boring Company aspires to revolutionize tunneling technology by achieving the benchmarks stated on their FAQ page: “(1) Triple the power output of the tunnel boring machine’s cutting unit, (2) Continuously tunnel instead of alternating between boring and installing supporting walls, (3) Automate the tunnel boring machine, eliminating most human operators, (4) Go electric, and (5) Engage in tunneling R&D.” And why not? If you can innovate above the earth, you can innovate beneath the earth.
In describing the Boring Company, Musk said, “the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.” He’s right. The world needs more innovators who are not only able to envision how new technologies can coalesce to transform the world, but who also have the guts to do something with their ideas.
When people criticize Elon Musk, what are they trying to prove? Do they think that his companies aren’t part of a modern industrial revolution that rivals the great breakthroughs ushered in during the great age of steel and steam, or during this ongoing digital revolution? Do they think the railroads that opened up a continent weren’t subsidized? Do they think the internet, providing the backbone of a communications revolution, was not subsidized?
More to the point, does anyone think that if the total value of the subsidies awarded Space X were instead invested in NASA, it would still be possible to launch a payload into space for under $1,000 per kilogram?
Another reason Musk attracts criticism is his eccentric personality. Examples abound. Enigmatic tweets. Selling flamethrowers. Smoking pot (after California legalized it) during an interview. Naming his sixth son X Æ A-Xii! Fair enough. But what about other great American industrialists, equally creative, equally driven, equally eccentric? What about Thomas Edison, J. Paul Getty, Henry Ford, or Howard Hughes? Heck, what about Steve Jobs?
Maybe being eccentric is just a part of being brilliant, driven, creative, and willing to take extraordinary risks. Shall we shame all these great, and very eccentric Americans? If so, Musk’s critics may get in line behind every nihilistic Luddite and socialist pack animal determined to undermine everything and everyone that made America great.
Which brings us to a final criticism of Musk, that he is a “socialist.” Evidence for this is thin. It is primarily based on the idea that if you accept government subsidies, you are not a true capitalist. But Musk expressed his version of socialism very accurately in one of his tweets, writing “By the way, I am actually a socialist. Just not the kind that shifts resources from most productive to least productive, pretending to do good, while actually causing harm. True socialism seeks greatest good for all.”
While this is a tweet guaranteed to make libertarian heads explode, it appeals to common sense. Government, by definition, is to some degree socialist. The only thing separating a mixed-capitalist economy and a full-blown socialist economy is the degree to which the government controls the economy. The middle of Musk’s sentence is controversial, but not because it’s too socialist. It is because it exposes the uncomfortable choice that governments have to make. Shall they yield to the populist demands of demagogic Democrats, and spend government revenue on the “least productive, pretending to do good, while actually causing harm,” or shall government revenue instead be invested in public/private partnerships that secure technological preeminence and economic security, benefiting everyone?
A libertarian would emphatically argue neither, and this reflects an absurd naïveté for several reasons. First, other nations have no compunction about exporting subsidized products, thus making it impossible for American manufacturers to compete. When this happens in critical industries, from steel to pharmaceuticals, eventually our nation loses its independence. That’s reason enough to subsidize strategic industries. But there are more.
When libertarians argue against government spending in all sectors, they get strong support from the Left to stop spending on industry and infrastructure. This splits the Right, which then lacks the strength to prevent spending shifting to welfare entitlements at the expense of spending on industry and infrastructure. When the anti-socialist politicians are divided, the socialists win.
Shaming Elon Musk is easy, but it isn’t accurate. It’s based on half-baked libertarian theories that don’t work in the real world. As for accusing Elon Musk of not being a “conservative,” what does that even mean? “Conservatives” stood by for decades as American business exported jobs and imported unskilled laborers, killing jobs and wages. Anyone concerned about America’s future in this grim world should be utterly indifferent about being called a “conservative.”
Ultimately, how history judges Elon Musk may come down to forces beyond his control. What is going to happen between the United States and China? If there is a new cold war, how will Musk manage his overseas investments, his supply chain, his factories in Berlin and Beijing? Like many industrialists in the 21st century, he may soon face difficult decisions. But to-date, Elon Musk has played a vital role in maintaining American industrial leadership. He deserves better than cheap shots.
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