NASA and various scientific experts are participating in their latest drill this week, examining what federal agencies would do in case an asteroid struck our planet.
If you think this sounds like the good premise for a science fiction movie, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine would probably agree with you. However, Bridenstine thinks Earth could face the real possibility of such a catastrophic event within our lifetime.
The Daily Mail reports the NASA chief presented his argument why the US should be readying its defenses against objects from outer space Monday at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference held in Washington, DC.
NASA, FEMA, and other agencies will conduct a defense drill at the conference, showing what would happen if an asteroid was on a collision course with the Earth. The plans are scheduled to be released for social media. Drills like this one are conducted every two years.
"We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it's not about the movies," Bridenstine said. "This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know, right now, to host life and that is the planet Earth."
Bridenstine used the recent Chelyabinsk Event in Russia to illustrate the potential for such an event to occur. The meteor, which struck the Ural Mountain range six years ago, was the largest ever recorded meteor strike in more than a century after the Tunguska event of 1908, according to The Daily Mail.
Almost 2,000 people were injured by the shock wave from the resulting explosion, which was estimated to be 20 times as strong as the nuclear weapon that leveled the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II.
Even though Near Earth Object strikes are estimated by scientists to happen every 60 years, Bridenstine explained they've happened three times over the last century.
Planetary defense is just as critical as landing men on the moon, the NASA chief told the audience at the conference.
That's why the space agency is working to identify and track 90 percent of all asteroids approximately 500 feet or larger, which have the potential of damaging our planet upon impact.
Among its other projects, NASA is currently developing the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission scheduled to launch in June 2021. The mission will be the first attempt to change an asteroid's trajectory by crashing an object into it.
The target for the DART will be the near-Earth asteroid Didymos, which measures 2,600 feet in diameter.