The asteroid 2019 OK, which could have caused a crater up to 70 kilometers in diameter to fall to Earth, passed extremely close to Earth in July. But NASA only learned about it the day before the flight.
The whole situation was shined by an internal NASA correspondence obtained by EXE News, which showed that an asteroid about five times as close to Earth as the Moon could have freely struck Earth, without even a blink of an eye.
In addition, it was discovered at all by a telescope called Sonear in Brazil, which focuses on the detection of near-Earth objects, but none of the planetary defense systems developed by NASA. This, of course, made NASA scientists scratch their heads.
"This object went through all our detection systems. It makes me wonder how often there has been a situation where an asteroid passes by but is not detected," wrote Paul Chodas of NASA's JPL Laboratory. Other NASA staffers also acknowledged in the emails that the incident is worrying because it shows that the planet's defense systems are still very weak.
Meanwhile, NASA and the US Congress have been arguing for a long time about whether more money should be invested in developing such systems. This year's US Academy of Sciences report shows that while Congress required NASA in a regulation created in 2005 to detect 90 percent of the potentially dangerous asteroids on Earth, the necessary telescopes and spacecraft have not been funded.
What was interesting, however, was the fact that many NASA devices "saw" the celestial body, but did not report it or classify it as dangerous. For example, ATLAS telescopes saw it on July 21, and Pan-STARRS telescopes at the end of June, but in both cases, the observation conditions were inadequate to determine the exact body parameters, and therefore did not give an accurate idea of the asteroid.
Meanwhile, Chodas, in a comment to EXE News, tried to alleviate the situation, saying that the automated systems worked accurately and simply found that the body did not pose a collision hazard. However, he also admitted that passing past an asteroid was a surprise to the planetary defense community and that it really needed further investigation.