Asteroid Impact Set Off Hiroshima-
Sized Air Blast On June 6
Early Warning Center For
Asteroids Needed Says USAF
By Marc Selinger
From James Oberg
The Department of Defense should set up an early warning center so the information it collects about asteroids, comets and other near-Earth objects (NEOs) can quickly be shared with other countries, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Simon "Pete" Worden, deputy director for operations at U.S. Space Command.
Worden said July 10 at a Capitol Hill space round-table that a June incident involving an asteroid over the Mediterranean Sea underscored the need for a center to warn about natural objects that could cross Earthís orbit. When the asteroid, estimated at five to 10 meters in diameter, collided with the Earthís atmosphere, it released a burst of energy comparable to the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II.
If the June 6 burst had occurred over India or Pakistan, which were on the brink of war at the time, it could have been mistaken for a military attack, pushing the two countries into a full-scale conflict, he said.
"Neither of those nations has the sophisticated sensors we do that can determine the difference between a natural NEO impact and a nuclear detonation," Worden said. "The resulting panic in the nuclear-armed and hair-trigger militaries there could have been the spark" for a nuclear war.
DOD currently gives NEO information to foreign countries on an informal basis, a process that can take weeks. Formalizing the process with a new early warning center could expedite that process, Worden said.
A recent study concluded that such a center could be formed with just five to 10 people at U.S. space facilities in Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., Worden added. While the center would need only a modest amount of equipment to get started, it likely would influence the requirements for the next-generation space surveillance system now under development. At the moment, DOD has not given anyone the go-ahead to set up such a center.
Worden also said that the U.S. should step up efforts to develop microsatellites, which can be produced and launched with far less money and time than regular satellites. Microsatellites could collect detailed information about a specific NEO, including its internal structure. Such information could be critical to figuring out how to divert the NEO from Earthís path.
Building a new set of ground-based telescopes that are three meters in diameter also would be helpful because it would allow the U.S. to scan the entire sky every few weeks, according to Worden. The nationís most effective NEO sensor, MITís Lincoln Lab LINEAR facility in New Mexico, misses many NEOs because its main optics are only one meter in diameter.
Another roundtable speaker, Colleen Hartman, director of NASAís solar system exploration division, said 602 NEOs with a diameter of one kilometer or more have been identified, a number that could grow to as many as 1,080 with further study. The U.S. has focused its detection efforts on such large NEOs because they could cause a global catastrophe. NASA is studying ways to detect smaller ones, which could number in the hundreds of thousands, because they still could cause serious devastation, Hartman said.
Ukrainian officials say the "strong flash" reported by the pilot of an Israeli plane over Ukraine on Thursday was probably caused by a meteor entering the atmosphere.
In a statement on Saturday, the Ukrainian defence ministry said no missiles had been fired in the area at the time.
We have checked all our missiles, and I can tell you they are all there
Kostyantyn Khivreno, Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman
The pilot had reported seeing what he believed to have been a missile exploding in mid-air at a distance from his aircraft.
Last year, 78 people died when a Russian airliner flying from Israel was hit over Ukraine by what was believed to have been a stray missile fired during a military exercise.
The Israeli Government said the El Al plane was never in danger during the latest incident.
"Specialists with the Ukraine Space Agency have concluded that it was probably a light phenomenon resulting from a meteor's entry into the earth's atmosphere," Ukraine defence ministry spokesman Kostyantyn Khivreno told AFP news agency.
Mr Kvirenko said the Ukrainian forces had "nothing to do with this".
"We have checked all our missiles, and I can tell you they are all there," the AFP quoted him as saying.
Firing missiles is totally banned in Ukraine
"The airplane crews who saw over Ukrainian territory on July 4 a flash that resembled a missile explosion were observing phenomena of unidentified origin not related to the activities of the Ukrainian armed forces," the statement said.
Thursday night's reported incident occurred during a regular El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Moscow.
The pilot saw a "strong flash" at a distance while flying over Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine, El Al said.
A Russian pilot, flying a Urals Airlines plane, told Ukrainian air traffic controllers that he had also seen a strong flash, according to AFP news agency.
But Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said the suggestion that the incident involved a Ukrainian missile was "absurd".
A Ukrainian missile caused last year's plane crash
"After last year's unfortunate incident, firing missiles is totally banned in Ukraine," he said.
In October last year, a Tu-154 plane operated by Sibir airlines flying from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk in Siberia exploded in mid-air over Ukraine, before crashing into the Black Sea.
All those on board - most of them Israelis - were killed.
After repeated denials, the Ukrainian defence ministry conceded that one of its ground-to-air missiles had brought the aircraft down.
Two New York Air National Guard pilots, with the best view of the crash of TWA Flight 800 last July, are disagreeing about what they saw immediately before destruction of the Boeing 747-131 jetliner.
One believes the airliner was struck by a fast-moving object coming from the east, while the other saw only a fiery trail from the west.
However, both believe a violent explosion ripped the aircraft apart, propelling some of its passengers high enough that they did not hit the water's surface until 3-4 min. after the initial explosion.
Maj. Frederick C. Meyer, pilot of an HH-60 helicopter from the Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing, has been freed from an FBI gag order preventing him from giving interviews about the 1996 disaster off Long Island, N.Y. The copilot, Capt. Christian Baur, remains under FBI instructions not to speak about the accident. But, two officials familiar with his testimony told Aviation Week & Technology in detail what he told investigators.
In the days immediately after the accident, before being ordered not to speak, Meyer discussed his initial impressions with news media he chose Aviation Week as the first news organization to hear a detailed account of his recollections and his testimony to federal investigators.
Meyer and Baur were in one of the wing's two aircraft operating north of the crash site. The helicopter was operating over Long Island about 12 mi. north of the TWA crash site. Baur, the copilot, was at the controls practicing instrument approaches. The crew was awaiting darkness so they could begin training with night vision goggles.
The key point on which the two pilots disagree is whether a streak of light appeared from the opposite direction of the flight of TWA 800 (which was flying from west to east after takeoff from Kennedy Airport), a possible indication of an intercepting missile or some other object.
Meyer's attention was first called to the area of the sky where the accident occurred "by a streak of light moving from my right(west) to my left (east)," the same direction as the TWA flight, he said.
Baur's account differs on this point. According to the two officials who have heard both pilots' accounts, Baur, on the left side of the cockpit, saw a streak moving from left to right toward the approaching TWA aircraft BEFORE the initial explosion.
"Almost due south (of the helicopter), there was a hard white light, like burning pyrotechnics, in level flight," Baur told investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, FBI and a Federal anti-terrorist task force. "I was trying to figure out what it was. It was the wrong color for flares. It struck an object coming from the right and made it explode."
Baur's first impression was that there had been a midair collision, possibly between two light aircraft that tow banners along the beach.
"They had witnessed these aircraft come very close to each other at that time of day, and that's what they assumed," the second official said.
Meyer could not actually see the aircraft, but only the streak, and he admits that Baur, a younger man, has better eyesight. Moreover, Meyer adds, "Whatever Chris saw on the left side I didn't see because he blocked my view." Baur disputes this, saying the explosions and crash were virtually dead ahead of the aircraft.
The helicopter was executing a missed approach and was about halfway down Runway 24 at the Francis S. Gabreski International Airport at Westhampton Beach, N.Y. It had started a climbing left turn to the south when the accident occurred. The sun had not yet set and the sky was still bright.
According to Meyer, the streak was about 15-20 degrees above his line of sight and perhaps 15 degrees left of the aircraft's centerline.
"I don't know if it was a missile that struck the airliner," Meyer said. "Nothing at that moment said 'missile' to me. I spent a number of years in Vietnam and had seen missiles fired, some of them at me. But, that was 25-year-old missile technology, which left smoke trails. I understand today that they are made with smokeless rocket fuel and don't leave trails. What I saw was a streak of light, not a smoke trail."
The streak of light that Meyer saw made a very shallow, gradually descending arc. He points out that he never saw the actual airframe of the TWA 747 within the streak or subsequent explosions or smoke trails. It was virtually identical to the trajectory of a meteor, with only a slight curve. But unlike a meteor, the streak was red-orange in color, he said.
Meyer observed the descending streak for 3-5 seconds. Then there was what Meyer describes as a hard, very sudden, yellowish-white explosion that looked identical to the detonation of an antiaircraft shell. He did not suggest an antiaircraft weapon was fired at TWA Flight 800, however.
"It left a cloud of smoke just like a flak explosion does," Meyer said. "One to two seconds later, there was a second, hard explosion appeared slightly below and behind where one would have anticipated the streak of light to have gone. The trajectory at that point appeared to be slightly bent down and slowed."
A new detail in Meyer's story was that almost immediately there was a third explosion and fireball. Meyer doesn't remember if there was an explosion and fireball or if the third explosion turned into the fireball.
That was a soft explosion unlike the first two," Meyer said. "It began as a tiny point and it grew very rapidly into a huge fireball four times the diameter of the sun. I was dumbstruck."
Baur also saw three explosions. But he contends that they started from left (east) and went to right (west). He said the explosions created a "huge waterfall of flame that cascaded down" the first official said. "The column of flame was being whipped around violently. First it was tumbling, and then it refined itself into a spiral. The explosions were all before the cascade of flame began."
In the helicopter, Baur spoke first, asking if it was pyrotechnics. ANG operations that night were to have included flares dropped by a HC-130 transport aircraft. The crew then called the Gabreski tower.
"We said we'd observed a fireball south of the field and we would like clearance to the beach to investigate," Meyer said. Baur actually made the call and reported a possible midair collision, the second official involved in the investigation said.
The crash time has been variously reported as being from 8:31 to 8:45 p.m., Meyer said. He believes the earlier time is more likely to be correct although he can't be sure.
Baur continued to fly the helicopter during the search while Meyer functioned as copilot and primary communicator. As they approached the crash site, after about 4 minutes of flight, debris was still falling so they slowed to avoid being hit.
"As they got closer, within two or three miles, Baur could see the aircraft body, not tumbling, but in vortex almost like inside a tornado," the second official said.
Meyer made another revelation that was the result of long reflection after the accident: "I was looking ahead... as we approached the crash site," Meyer said. "I saw some debris at 1,200--1,300 ft. falling at terminal velocity and fuselage fragments tumbling at 40-50 miles per hour. The things falling at high speed were bodies still strapped in their seats. That is logically inconsistent if they came from the same explosion at the same time. On reflection, I have concluded that the bodies must have been blown upward before they came down. That indicates a violent explosion."
On this point the two pilots' accounts Agree, the officials said.
"Debris was falling like snow," according to Baur's testimony. "Among the particulate there was metal and paper, some of it glowing. Through all that, things would come racing through--two or three high-speed objects like sacks of potatoes. I believed them to be bodies that had been blown upward."
The pilots' opinion differ from the conclusion of inspectors that all the passengers were in the fuselage when it ripped apart from aerodynamic forces.
In an attempt to debunk cover-up and conspiracy theories, Meyer and other ANG officials remain adamant that their unit was not part of any larger, undisclosed, multi-service operation. Operations the night of the crash were standard training flights to maintain currency with night vision goggles, rescue operations and in-air refueling.
The HH-60 flight was to be of about two hours' duration and would not extend more than 2 miles off the Long Island southern coast. The HC-130 would drop flares, rafts and a para-rescueman and later refuel the helicopter in a communications-out, lights-out operation.
"No other people of other services were on the base at the time," Meyer said. Nor were there indications of the operations of drone aircraft, another theory that has surfaced as the possible cause of the crash. "No, there would have been some kind of notice." Back to Overview
compare date of First article to this and remember again my comments on this
By Mark Odell in London and Haig Simonian in BerlinPublished: June 5 2002 5:00 Last Updated: June 5 2002 5:00 The future of one of Europe's showpiece defence collaborations is under threat because of German delays in signing the final contract for Meteor missile.
Proof positive..........NOTHING is as it seems wink wink nudge nudge
Authorities clueless about mysterious fireball
By The Associated Press
HENRYETTA - Police said today they still don't know what to make of more than 20 reports of a mysterious fireball in the sky.
Henryetta Police Chief Audie Cole said his officers have exhausted their investigation into the object, which streaked through the sky for about 10 to 15 seconds Saturday night. Two minutes later, residents felt the tremors of an explosion.
"From what they tell me, it was a pretty good boom," the chief said. "The officers have done everything they could do."
Officers checked on planes at the airport and Tinker Air Force Base. They even looked into whether there had been a major truck accident on Interstate 40 that threw something into the air.
There was no such accident and none of the ideas got them any answers, Cole said.
About 20 people called police Saturday night to report the flying object, which some said had a flaming blue tail.
"When we first saw it we thought it was a missile," said Henryetta resident Shirley Brown. "It had a blue flame and a red flame coming out of the back. It was like a comet, but it was metal."
Other residents called the Okmulgee County Sheriff's Office.
"Six people called with reports of a large missile-type object with large flames flying across the sky," Okmulgee County Undersheriff Eddy Rice said.
Authorities said they have no clue where the object landed.
"There is nowhere to even start," Rice said. "Usually people are pretty good about calling if they see smoke, and we haven't had anyone call to report that."
The chief said the projectile likely was flying 10 miles south of Henryetta.
I'm not enough of a meteoriricist to be able to say but it seems like a five to ten meter meteor is a bit small to make a 12-15 kiloton blast. Still, I suppose if it came in fast enough, had the right composition, and the right entry angle it could well have made such a bang. Must have blown itself to bits very high in the atmosphere since it seems the detonation wasn't heard on the ground itself but only picked up by our sensors.
The Henryetta fireball was almost certainly a meteor given the description by the witnesses.
They do make a good point about what if it had happened over India/Pakistan. A meteor self-destructing in a spectacular way even very high in the atmosphere where no one would be endangered by it could still start a series of cascading consequences that could lead to Armageddon.
An apparent nuclear detonation in the high atmosphere could be mistaken for an EMP burst. By the time it became obvious that it wasn't matters may have taken on a life of their own. For those of you who have read <i>Lucifer's Hammer</i> you'll recall there was some concern about how to distinguish between a large meteorite strike and a nuclear strike. By the time someone could figure there wasn't sufficient radiation to be a nuclear strike it may be too late.
metors have different compositions. i guess it is possible that something in the metor caused it to hyper-explode. or maybe it just a test of a new system. ???? don't know. but i do remember the people with project disclosure talking about space weapons.??????
It's not the explosion That I find odd. It's the fact that the articles above indicate that Meteors are possibly on the increase . That's Three incidents in One month and combine that with my past thread on the announcement that the Meteor missle deal with Germany was canceled by Britain just one day before this Explosion. Wondering should we keep an eye out for more of these and do they indicate a possibly larger threat or cosmic event?
Have to agree with you. There is an "apparent" increase in large meteor activity. The big one that missed up in early June (that we didn't even see until 3 days later) should be a wake up call.
The apparent increase though may just be that, an apparent increase. Poor reporting of previous events may mean that the Earth has always been having this number of close brushes with death, but the more complete news distribution, and increased number of sensors everywhere, mean that there appear to be more activity while in reality there is not any increase.
The "out of the blue" event though needs to now be seriously considered and planned for since we now know such an event is possible....and in fact given enough time, probable.
Here is another interesting point to ponder.
Most large object collissions with Earth, either impacts, air bursts or fireballs seem to cluster around JUNE.
There must be a lot of big pieces of stuff in our orbit around that time each year. There isn't an associated meteor shower that I know of but when something arrives it's big.
Something to watch for each year.
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