Russian Meteor Cash Grab

The great Russian meteor cash grab has begun, according to ABC News reporter Kirit Radia. Now acknowledged as the largest meteor to strike in over a century, the 17 meter diameter space rock slammed into the earth’s atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia on Friday at a speed greater than 40,000 miles an hour.

Construction firms and workers might be the obvious beneficiaries of the Russian meteor cash. Phil Black and Laura Smith-Spark for CNN note that the estimated $33 million in damage includes 77,220 square miles of broken glass.

Most of the 4,000 buildings damaged in the strike were apartments. The clean-up crews will be busy, and they will need to work fast so that victims’ homes won’t be open to the Russian winter a moment longer than necessary.

However, the one-two punch of the unexpected Russian meteor, followed within hours by Earth’s near-miss by Asteroid 2012 DA14, has caught the eyes of other opportunity seekers. As Nathan Francis reported, the Science, Space, and Technology Committee plans to hold a hearing to find out what can be done about the threat roaming space objects pose to the planet.

Committee chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) stated, “”Developing technology that enable us to track objects like Asteroid 2012 DA14 is critical to our future. We should continue to invest in systems that identify threatening asteroids.” Perhaps, but a skeptical observer might wonder if these high tech systems might just by chance be funded and developed in Houston, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Why should the Russian meteor cash just go to Russians when money can be appropriated from Washington for Texas?

When meteors strike the ground, they are called “meteorites,” and alert meteorite hunters like Tuscon, Arizona resident Michael Farmer are willing to travel the world in search of the potentially valuable specimens. In the past, Farmer has searched Morocco, Lesotho, Peru, and many other nations. He told ABC News that he had been unable to sleep and that he planned to expedite his Russian visa in order to get in on the ground floor.

Specimens of the Russian meteor could be worth serious cash. Even less publicized meteorites can be valuable to collectors. In 2012, Science News noted that treasure seekers chasing rare meteorites in the wake of a California explosion expected to sell their prizes for up to $1,000 a gram.

NASA’s Space reveals that the meteor was larger than their first estimate, probably weighing in at around 10,000 tons. Thus far, local authorities have not located any trace of the space rocks on the ground even after dragging a lake where witnesses say they saw it go down.

However, it seems almost certain that pieces of the massive object will eventually be found, perhaps by those hunters hoping to get their share of the Russian meteor cash.