Redstone Report: Tracking meteors at MSFC

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - On February 15, 2013 a meteor came crashing through Earth's atmosphere at more than 40,000 miles per hour. It lit up the sky in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

The shockwaves from the energy of that explosion hurt over a thousand people and caused millions of dollars in damages.

"You know, you see really big explosions, it kind of sends a shock that knocks people down. That's what happened in Russia. It was an explosive shock that went down to the ground and caused this damage," explained Dr. Bill Cooke with NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

Before the Russian meteor, the first record of any kind of meteorite injury was in Sylacauga, Alabama. A space rock slammed through the roof of Ann Elizabeth Hodge's home, ricocheted off a table and caught her in the side. She survived the accident.

Whether it's Russia or Alabama, Dr. Bill Cooke keeps track of meteors headed our way. He is the Lead for NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center. He uses science to figure out the risks to people on Earth and equipment in space.

Dr. Cooke said NASA has found and is tracking 95 percent of the larger meteors in space, the type of rocks that would destroy civilization if they hit. He says right now, none of those rocks pose a threat. Since most of the large rocks have been found, Dr. Cooke focuses on finding the smaller ones, which can actually be more dangerous to people on earth and those working in space.

"Most of the stuff that causes damage is about a millimeter across... something that size can cut a wire or go through a space suit, so we worry about the little stuff," he said.

The big question on everybody's mind... should we worry about a meteor destroying Earth? Dr. Cooke said don't expect a scene from "Armageddon" to play out anytime soon.

"So should people be worried? I don't think so. I sleep pretty well at night," he said.

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