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Photo: Space Frontiers/Getty Images

Internal NASA communications show the agency's surprise after a football-field-sized asteroid narrowly missed Earth in July, according to emails acquired by BuzzFeed News via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Why it matters: The emails show that NASA officials believe the agency is lacking necessary infrastructure to reliably detect asteroids.

Context: The asteroid, called "2019 OK," passed about 40,400 miles above Earth's surface — roughly a fifth the distance from the Earth to the moon — at 55,000 miles per hour and could have "created localized devastation to an area roughly 50 miles across" if it struck land, according to a NASA news release.

The big picture: "The near-miss of the incoming asteroid points to a long-running fight between NASA and Congress to build a reliable way to watch for 'potentially hazardous' asteroids," writes BuzzFeed.

  • NASA relies on lawmakers to fund telescopes and spacecraft that can detect near-Earth objects.

What they said: In an email acquired by BuzzFeed, Lindley Johnson, NASA's planetary defense officer, wrote, "This one did sneak up on us and it is an interesting story on the limitations of our current survey network."

  • "An asteroid of this size coming this close to Earth is a pretty rare event — on the order of about twice a century," according to Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at JPL.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Miriam Kramer: NASA is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to tracking potentially dangerous asteroids. While many Americans think that it should be a top priority for the agency, NASA doesn't yet have the tools it needs to be able to fully characterize the threat posed by these space rocks.

Go deeper: The future of asteroid tracking

Go deeper

Progressives pressure Schumer to end filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

A progressive coalition is pressuring Chuck Schumer on his home turf by running a digital billboard in Times Square urging the new majority leader to end the Senate filibuster.

Why it matters: Schumer is up for re-election in 2o22 and could face a challenger, and he's also spearheading his party's broader effort to hold onto its narrow congressional majorities.

4 hours ago - Health

U.S. surpasses 25 million COVID cases

A mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 22 in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The U.S has confirmed more than 25 million coronavirus cases, per Johns Hopkins data updated on Sunday.

The big picture: President Biden has said he expects the country's death toll to exceed 500,000 people by next month, as the rate of deaths due to the virus continues to escalate.

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.