When a 10-ton meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia on
Friday, Feb. 15, it injured more than 1,500 people, caused $30 million in damage, and sparked nearly 3,000 financial aid applications from residents.
Now, it seems, Russians -- including government officials -- are trying to get that money back, using the very rock that caused the
losses in the first place.
This week, authorities in Chelyabinsk announced a design contest for a memorial to mark the "interplanetary visit," and also unveiled plans to develop a logo that entrepreneurs can slap on calendars,
magnets, booklets, and other souvenirs. The region's geography and history museum, meanwhile, has already opened an exhibition on the meteorite that will include photos, videos, and meteorite fragments. "The authorities say they will try to make the memory of last Friday's event a great tourist attraction," the Voice of Russia reported.
Then there's the mayor of Chebarkul, who has himself
tried to dig up some meteorite fragments by sending divers into the
town's lake, where the meteor crashed. And he recently tried to
galvanize his constituents by launching a competition for business ideas that would allow Chebarkul to profit
from the global attention. The window may be closing fast, though, since Russian scientists
say the fragments will soon be covered by snow or blown away by the wind.
Efforts to capitalize on the meteor strike got underway almost as soon
as the extraterrestrial stone blew up, spewing tiny fireballs that
buried themselves just inches deep in the ground
and quickly cooled into little collectibles. Residents rushed to
scene of the explosion and began to dig up
bits of meteorite that were often no larger than a centimeter.
Apparently enough people were eager to see the meteor that some locals
started taxiing them over for a steep price.
Many of the fragments have made their way onto the Russian classified ad website Avito.ru, where prices range from 500 to 300,000 rubles
($16 to $10,000), though the size of the fragments doesn't vary nearly as
much. But meteorite aficionados beware: Many of the space particles for sale are raising
some eyebrows, and Chelyabinsk police have already looked into a local man who
has sold a few chunks for 15,000 rubles ($492) apiece that they believe could
be fakes. Given the uncertainty, you might be better off with a good old-fashioned souvenir.