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NOVA: Asteroid: Doomsday Or Payday?

Airs Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: GFX of meteor hurtling towards earth.

Courtesy of Oddball

Dashboard camera image of first glimpse of meteor burning up as it enters atmosphere.

Courtesy of David Hutt

Mining at the NORCAT underground training facility, Sudbury.

Courtesy of David Hutt

Exterior of the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range Impact Chamber.

The asteroid that exploded in the skies over Siberia injuring more than 1,000 and damaging buildings in six cities was a shocking reminder that Earth is a target in a cosmic shooting range.

From the width of a football field to the size of a small city, these space rocks have the potential to be killers. In a collision with Earth, they could set off deadly blast waves, raging fires and colossal tidal waves.

But some audacious entrepreneurs look at asteroids and see payday, not doomsday. In NOVA "Asteroid: Doomsday Or Payday?" learn if some asteroids are loaded with billions of dollars’ worth of elements like iron, nickel and even platinum.

While NASA plans an ambitious mission to return samples from a potentially hazardous asteroid, would-be asteroid miners are dreaming up their own program to scout for potentially profitable asteroids.

Will asteroids turn out to be our economic salvation — or instruments of extinction?

Read an interview with NASA Senior Research Scientist Don Yeomans, who answered questions about Apophis and the asteroid threat in general.

Past episodes of NOVA are available for online viewing. NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Asteroid: Doomsday or Payday? Preview

Will future asteroids trigger massive extinctions—or be mined for precious minerals? Airing November 20 at 9 pm on PBS