NASA’s Advice on Asteroid Heading for Earth: ‘Just Pray’

NEW YORK | Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 10:11pm EDT

The head of NASA said his best advice on how to handle a large asteroid heading towards New York City is “pray”.

NASA Advice on Asteroids for Earth Pray 01

Image courtesy of NASA shows an artist’s concept of a broken-up asteroid. Scientists think that a giant asteroid, which broke up long ago in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, eventually made its way to Earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Charles Bolden, the chief of NASA, has advice on how to handle a large asteroid which is getting closer to New York City: Pray.

That’s about all the United States could as unknown asteroids and meteors that can collide with Earth, Bolden told lawmakers at a U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee hearing on Tuesday.

An asteroid of  about 55 feet in diameter exploded on February 15 over Chelyabinsk, Russia, generating shock waves that shattered windows and damaged buildings. More than 1,500 people were injured.

On the same day another asteroid, which was discovered last year, passed about 17,200 miles (27,681 km) from Earth, closer than the network of television and weather satellites that ring the planet, reports The Independent.

US House of Representatives Science Committee chairman Lamar Smith, called the Tuesday’s hearing in response to the events of last month. On the agenda were isues considering the progress done and how much money is needed to better protect the planet.

“We were fortunate that the events of last month were simply an interesting coincidence rather than a catastrophe,” he told the committee.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, told the hearing that the events: “serve as evidence that we live in an active solar system with potentially hazardous objects passing through our neighborhood with surprising frequency.”

NASA is currently tracking about 95 percent of the largest objects flying near our planet, those that are .62 miles (1 km) or larger in diameter.

“An asteroid of that size, a kilometer or bigger, could plausibly end civilization,” White House science advisor John Holdren told legislators at the same hearing.

However, just 10 percent of an estimated 10,000 potential “city-killer” asteroids, with a diameter of about 165 feet (50 meters) have been found, Holdren added.

In addition to stepping up its monitoring efforts and building international partnerships, Nasa is reported to be also looking at developing technologies to divert an object that may be on a collision course with Earth.

However most monitoring systems are considered to be inadequate.

Bolden told the committee: “From the information we have, we don’t know of an asteroid that will threaten the population of the United States but if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.”

White House science advisor John Holdren told the committee: “The odds of a near-Earth object strike causing massive casualties and destruction of infrastructure are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large it makes sense to takes the risk seriously.”

In addition to monitoring and building international partnerships, the agency spoke of development of various technologies to divert an object that may be on a collision course with Earth.

“The odds of a near-Earth object strike causing massive casualties and destruction of infrastructure are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large it makes sense to takes the risk seriously,” Mr Holdren said.

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