Expect a major asteroid strike in your lifetime — NASA head

Expect a major asteroid strike in your lifetime — NASA head

What should we do?

It's this potentially catastrophic scenario that 300 astronomers, scientists, engineers and emergency experts are applying their collective minds to this week in a Washington suburb, the fourth such worldwide effort since 2013.

Speaking at the International Academy of Astronautics' 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Md., on Monday, Bridenstine said the space agency and other asteroid scientists need to make sure people understand that the threat is very real and not just the imagination of big-budget blockbuster movie directors. China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Israel, and the United States are some of the states represented at the exercise. Among the riskiest asteroids is one named 2000SG344.

During his keynote speech, Bridenstine also referred to the Chelyabinsk Event, which saw a meteor measuring around 65ft wide enter Earth's atmosphere over Russian Federation in 2013. More than 1700 people were injured from the shock wave after the explosion - it was estimated to be as strong as 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs.

Last June, NASA unveiled a 20-page plan that details steps the USA should take to be better prepared for NEOs, asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of Earth.

Incidents like the Chelyabinsk Event are thought to occur every 60 years, but according to Bridenstine, they've happened three times in the past 100 years.

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Most of the asteroids are small, but of them, 942 are more than 0.6 miles across, estimates astronomer Alan Harris.

Asteroid flybys are fairly common, but in 2029, a space rock will come so close to our planet that you will be able to witness it without any telescope or specialized gear. The ESA has built a telescope for this goal in Spain and is planning others in Chile and Sicily.

This means that preparing and studying this object closely can give scientists more insight into the structural integrity and composition of other large space rocks.

If it is less than 165 feet, the global consensus is to evacuate the threatened region. According to Koschny, it is possible to predict the country it will strike two weeks ahead. Trying to nuke them to smithereens like in the movie Armageddon would be bad idea because it could just create smaller but still risky pieces.

In case the asteroid is more prominent, the plan is to shot a device at the rock to deflect its trajectory. Some efforts from the NASA to defend the Earth against asteroids include the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which is set to begin in June 2021, and it even includes help from the SpaceX.

One issue that remains is politics, says Romana Kofler, of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.

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