“This is not about Hollywood,” Bridenstine pointed out. “It is not about movies, it is ultimately about protecting the only planet we know capable of harboring life. Meteorites capable of destroying an entire state of the United States or a European country are a real threat to the Earth.”
Bridenstine noted the meteorite that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, had “30 times the energy of the atomic bomb dropped in Hiroshima” and the energy released wounded some 1,500 people.
Just 16 hours after this event, NASA detected an even larger object that approached our planet.
“I wish I could tell you that these events are exceptionally unique, but they are not.” Bridenstine added. “These events are not rare, they occur. It is up to us to make sure that we are identifying, tracking and analyzing all near-Earth objects that could be a threat.”
According to experts, these events are supposed to occur every 60 years, but Bridenstine noted that he stressed that in the last 100 years there have been three devastating events and he indicated that this regularity is unusual.
In 2018, the White House published an action plan that required NASA to detect, track and characterize 90% of near-Earth objects that measure at least 140 meters in diameter, but Bridenstine admitted that there is still a long way to go to meet that goal.
“We’re barely a third of it,” said Bridenstine. “We want more international partners that can join us in this effort. We want more systems that can detect and track these objects, and we want to be able to feed all that data into a single operating system so that, ultimately, we have the most accurate data we can get. Not investing in this can have catastrophic consequences.”
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