Asteroid Talk: What’s Floating Around Out There?

Recently a group of Orcas Island High School students were presented with an amazing opportunity. Students attended a fascinating talk at the Episcopal Church about asteroids and the affect they have on us. This was presented to the students as an “extra credit” opportunity by Physics teacher Brett Mcfarland. Mcfarland thought it would be an incredible opportunity for the students to improve their grades, and widen their knowledge. He could not have had it more right.


Frank Whitney/Getty Images

Students showed up briefly before the lecture began and sat in the back, not knowing what to expect. The entire room was packed; every seat taken. Soon the lecture began and people became captivated and intrigued. Attendees began taking out their phones and recording what the speakers were saying. Several retired astronauts were involved, but one speaker, “Rusty” Schweickart, was in charge. He discussed many interesting ideas about the threat of asteroids. He also talked about the many different types of asteroids and the effects that they have when they hit home. Schweickart additionally showed many different examples of times where our existence has been tested by these “near earth objects” as he called them.

Schweickart then went on to discuss ways of preventing an asteroid collision with our planet. Some of these ways definitely stuck out to many students who were in attendance; especially when he talked about the possibility of preventing an asteroid with an atomic bomb. The last thing Rusty communicated was the need for someone to “push the button” on this issue. He discussed the fact that we need someone, from some country, to step up and say that this research is going to happen. If we continue to look over this issue, we continue to run the dangerous risk of collision.

“This comes down to our natural survival instincts”, Schweickart said with passion during his presentation.


Picture by NASA

This raised an interesting point for the students involved. This is the planet these young minds will be inheriting. What are they going to do with topics and issues like this? That is why the talk was such a fantastic opportunity for the students. It went so far beyond some small amount of points in “extra credit”. It went toward the knowledge and wisdom that they will need in their lives. It went toward making a better future. That is why lectures such as this one are great opportunities for students to learn and get informed. Students will agree when it is said that we need many more lectures like the one that night.

So although the entire night was inspiring and extraordinary, one moment stuck out for several students in particular. It was when the lecture had ended and several young attendees made their way up to the front of the room to get an up-close look at some asteroid samples the speakers had brought. Students could not help but notice that the ziplock bag that one of the pieces was in was hanging wide open. Making sure no one was watching, students reached their fingers inside and felt this space-rock. They apologized to the people who provided the samples for doing so, but as they left that night, they had never felt so close to the universe we live in before. As one student said, “We touched space!”

I am sure Brett Mcfarland would be proud of his students.