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Asteroid 2012 DA14 Makes Closest Pass to Earth on Friday

Hemera/Thinkstock (file photo)(HOUSTON) -- The asteroid 2012 DA14 will come scarily close to Earth on Friday, traveling from south to north, and passing closest to Australia, Asia and Eastern Europe.  Its closest approach will be at 2:25 p.m. ET.

The asteroid will miss our planet by about 17,230 miles.  To put that into perspective, the moon is 238,900 miles from Earth.

Professor Scott Hubbard of Stanford University, a former NASA manager, put it into more perspective: "You say 17,000 miles, that is huge.  But remember all of those satellites out there that give us our global positioning, that tell our iPhones where we are, those are at 22,000 miles, so it is going to pass between Earth and the satellites that give us Direct TV every day.  That's a close shave."

And that's why Hubbard, Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart and space station astronaut Ed Lu have become the Asteroid Hunters -- launching their own mission to find asteroids that could collide with our planet in their future.

"This asteroid is important because it is a wakeup call that we should be looking out there," said former astronaut Lu.  "Things do hit the earth."

The last big asteroid to hit Earth slammed into Siberia in 1908, wiping out a thousand miles of tundra.  Just imagine if an asteroid the size of DA14 were to hit an urban area like San Francisco, Chicago or New York.

Finding those life-ending asteroids is the challenge.

"The truth of the matter is of all the asteroids that are out there and come near the Earth and can do harm and hit the Earth, we only know 1 percent of them now," said Schweickart.  "Ninety-nine percent of them, we don't even know where they are."

So what are the odds of being hit by an asteroid?

"I will give you an example," said Lu.  "An asteroid hits the Earth in a typical person's lifetime, let's say your lifetime, with about a one in four chance.  I have a coin here, if I were to flip this twice and get heads twice, that is about the same odds as us getting smacked by an asteroid."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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