NASA chief warns asteroid threat is real: ‘It’s about protecting the only planet we know to host life’

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is sounding the alarm that an asteroid strike is just not one thing to be taken evenly and is probably Earth’s largest risk.

Talking on the Worldwide Academy of Astronautics’ 2019 Planetary Protection Convention in School Park, Md., on Monday, Bridenstine mentioned the area company and different asteroid scientists want to verify folks perceive that the risk could be very actual and never simply the creativeness of big-budget blockbuster film administrators.

“We’ve got to make it possible for folks perceive that this isn’t about Hollywood, it isn’t about motion pictures,” Bridenstine mentioned on the convention, in response to Area.com. “That is about finally defending the one planet we all know proper now to host life, and that’s the planet Earth.”

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“We all know for a indisputable fact that the dinosaurs didn’t have an area program. However we do, and we have to use it,” Bridenstine added, making an attempt to painting planetary protection on the identical degree as a return journey to the Moon. The Trump administration needs to see astronauts return to the Moon by 2024, with or with out the assistance of NASA.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine testifies earlier than the Home Committee on Science, Area and Expertise on April 2, 2019, throughout a listening to to evaluation NASA’s fiscal yr 2020 price range request.

Bridenstine is aware of the perils of asteroid strikes all too effectively. In February 2013, he had been a Congressman in Oklahoma for only a month when a devastating asteroid streaked throughout the Russian sky.

Often known as the Chelyabinsk Occasion, it was the most important recognized meteor strike in over a century and it injured greater than 1,600 folks. It “launched the vitality equal of round 440,000 tons of TNT,” in response to NASA.

“I want I might inform you these occasions are exceptionally distinctive,” Bridenstine mentioned in the course of the presentation, noting they’ve occurred 3 times previously 100 years. “However they don’t seem to be.”

At the moment, there are two asteroid-centric missions happening world wide —  NASA’s OSIRIS-REx probe, which reached the Bennu asteroid in December 2018, and the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which just lately “bombed” the Ryugu asteroid in an effort to study extra about it.

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Bridenstine highlighted the scientific significance of each of those missions however added that planetary protection can be an necessary element. “Sure, it is about science, it is about discovery, it is about exploration, however one of many causes we do these missions is in order that we will characterize these objects to guard, once more, the one planet we all know to host life.”

“We’ve got to make use of our techniques, use our capabilities to finally get much more information, and we now have to do it sooner,” Bridenstine mentioned.

Planetary protection

Relating to planetary protection, NASA is just not sitting on its haunches, having taken a number of steps to guard Earth by detecting and monitoring near-Earth Objects, also referred to as NEOs.

Final June, NASA unveiled a 20-page plan that particulars steps the U.S. ought to take to be higher ready for NEOs, asteroids and comets that come inside 30 million miles of Earth. Lindley Johnson, the area company’s planetary protection officer, mentioned on the time that the nation “already has important scientific, technical and operational capabilities” to assist with NEOs, however implementing the brand new plan would “tremendously improve our nation’s readiness and work with worldwide companions to successfully reply ought to a brand new potential asteroid impression be detected.”

There are roughly 18,000 recognized NEOs and that quantity is consistently rising.

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In 2016, NASA formalized the company’s prior program for detecting and monitoring NEOs and put it inside its Science Mission Directorate.

NASA will launch its first asteroid protection mission, the Double Asteroid Redirection Check (DART) mission, in 2022. Earlier this month, NASA awarded a $69 million contract to SpaceX, the area exploration firm led by Elon Musk, to assist with DART.

At the moment, asteroid scientists from world wide are conducting a drill displaying what the varied world businesses would do a few potential asteroid collision. For the primary time, the drill is being performed out over social media. Updates of the hypothetical occasion are being shared on the ESA Operations Twitter account till Could three.

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