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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.

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It's Out Of Here: Asteroid Whizzes By

Feb 15, 2013
Originally published on February 15, 2013 3:46 pm

Update at 2:25 p.m. ET. Asteroid Has Passed By:

According to NASA, asteroid 2012 DA14 — a rock thought to be about 150 feet across and the weight of about 318 fully loaded Boeing 747s — just flew past the planet.

So, we're all safe.

Update at 3:43 p.m. ET. A Photograph:

NASA has released this photograph of 2012 DA14:

Our original post and earlier updates:

If you haven't heard by now, then we've got some perhaps unsettling news:

There's an asteroid the size of an office building headed toward — but, we're told, not directly at — our planet.

Called 2012 DA14, it's supposed to pass within about 17,000 miles of us at 2:24 p.m. ET and then start heading away.

NASA says it's not going to hit us, and is streaming its webcast of this event. We'll embed it in this post and get back to you, we trust, when the rock has passed by. If you're in the U.S., by the way, don't bother looking up. Daylight will obscure our view.

Update at 2:15 p.m. ET. Interest Is Certainly High:

If NASA's viewer count on its webcast is right, about 4.8 million people are tuned in.

Update at 2:12 p.m. ET. A Minute Late?

NASA just said the closest point of the approach may not happen until 2:25 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.