As if by an odd quirk of fate, one near-Earth object that is expected to soar past our planet in the coming days, but fortunately without risk of an impact event, measures the same as the height of New York’s most prominent landmark, which has dominated the Big Apple’s skyline since 1886.
The start of Democrat Joe Biden’s term in the Oval Office will apparently be marked with quite a few of cosmic events, as a spate of asteroids are on course to make “a close approach” to Earth around the time that the president-elect is due to be sworn into office on Wednesday, 20 January.
NASA has identified as many as six asteroids set to whizz past Earth on Biden’s big day, with the agency labelling them as near-Earth objects, meaning they typically fall under close-up observation.
According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, such space rocks, which can further be classified as potentially hazardous objects, or PHOs, are “comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood”. If an NEO’s orbit crosses that of Earth, and the object exceeds 140 metres (460 ft) across in size, it is considered a potentially hazardous object (PHO).
The closest approach of an NEO will be made on 20 January by a near-Earth cosmic guest, Asteroid 2021 BC, measuring up to 93 metres in width and coming closer to our planet than the Moon, Earth’s natural satellite.
Paradoxically, as if inspired by the vibes of the upcoming inauguration day in the US, the object is just the size as the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York, which is 93 metres tall. It will be travelling at around 29,000 miles per hour and could come around 640,000 miles from Earth, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory website.
While Trump’s term in office saw America demonstrate a vivid interest in space travel and exploration, with the climax being the introduction of the Space Force as an independent branch of the military, Biden’s plans for NASA and America’s space programme are less clear. He has so far made little mention of his plans with this regard – only as a few statements during the Crew Dragon Demo 2 launch on 30 May 2020. Also, Biden wrote on his website while on the campaign trail:
“As president, I look forward to leading a bold space program that will continue to send astronaut heroes to expand our exploration and scientific frontiers through investments in research and technology to help millions of people here on Earth”.