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Arts & Culture

NOVA: Asteroid: Doomsday Or Payday?

GFX of meteor hurtling towards earth.
Courtesy of Jason White
GFX of meteor hurtling towards earth.

Stream now or tune in Wednesday, July 21, 2021 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, July 22 at 4 p.m. on KPBS 2

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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.

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

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.

Mining at the NORCAT underground training facility, Sudbury.
Courtesy of David Hutt
Mining at the NORCAT underground training facility, Sudbury.

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

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Exterior of the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range Impact Chamber.
Courtesy of David Hutt
Exterior of the NASA Ames Vertical Gun Range Impact Chamber.

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