The head of NASA has warned a potentially catastrophic asteroid could crash into earth within our lifetime.
Speaking at the International Academy of Astronautics’ 2019 Planetary Defense Conference on April 29, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine cautioned against the so-called ‘giggle factor’, whereby major asteroids are seen as more action movie territory than as a major threat.
Bridenstine has emphasized the importance of prioritizing planetary defense, stressing how this is just as crucial as other, more widely publicised NASA objectives such as the planned mission to Jupiter’s fourth-largest moon, Europa.
Speaking at the conference at College Park, Maryland, Bridenstine argued how it is now vital to find ways to deflect potential impactors, as well as to understand how to prepare emergency procedures to ensure public safety.
As reported by Space.com, Bridenstine made the following remarks at the conference:
We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it’s not about movies.
This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know right now to host life, and that is the planet Earth.
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— NASA (@NASA) April 29, 2019
Bridenstine used the Chelyabinsk event of February 2013 as an example of the increasing severity and potential for such events.
The Chelyabinsk meteor – said to have been the size of a six-storey building – broke up above the city of Chelyabinsk, in Russia’s southern Ural mountain range. Over 1,600 people were injured by shock waves from the explosion, which is reported to have had the strength of 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs.
The Chelyabinsk event marked the largest meteor strike on record in over a century, following the after the 1908 Tunguska event. Such events are estimated to happen just once every 60 years, however Bridenstine remarked that they have happened three times in the last century alone.
I wish I could tell you these events are exceptionally unique.
But they are not.
“Save the planet from cosmic disaster. No pressure.” -Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator at the #PlanetaryDefense conference this morning.
— Harrison Agrusa (@harrisonagrusa) April 29, 2019
Bridenstine spoke of NASA’s ongoing efforts to detect and track 90 per cent of asteroids within the Earth’s vicinity which are 459ft or more, with the potential to inflict fatal damage.
We have to use our systems, use our capabilities to ultimately get a lot more data, and we have to do it faster.
We know for a fact that the dinosaurs did not have a space program. But we do, and we need to use it.
LIVE: Speaking at the #PlanetaryDefense Conference https://t.co/uvjuqc6thj
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 29, 2019
NASA’s very first planetary defense mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), is scheduled to launch in 2022. This mission will aim to deflect an asteroid by crashing an object into it at very high speeds.
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