NASA Head Jim Bridenstine: Meteors Are a Real Threat to Earth

Pablo Tucker
May 3, 2019

During a keynote address marking the opening of the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in Washington, DC, Bridenstine said we should be strengthening our planet for an asteroid impact.

This image shows the distance between the Apophis asteroid and Earth at the time of the asteroid's closest approach. They stressed the importance of protecting the only planet that can host life - Earth.

"We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it's not about movies", he said.

"We know for a fact that the dinosaurs did not have a space programme".


That's the ominous disclaimer and motto for an global conference involving NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and other groups underway in Washington, D.C. this week. The Trump administration wants to see astronauts return to the Moon by 2024, with or without the help of NASA.

Bridenstine knows the perils of asteroid strikes all too well. The Chelyabinsk Event refers to the meteor which blazed over the southern Ural region of Russian Federation at speeds of up to 69,000 km/h and was approximately 66 feet in size. It "released the energy equivalent of around 440,000 tons of TNT", according to NASA.

Bridenstine said he was glad the association was publicizing the Apophis event, so that the public and leaders in Congress appreciate the opportunity it represents to study a near-earth object or NEO. "But they are not". And as NASA continues to research more exact possible impact locations and effects, as well as orbital motion patterns, they will be able to reveal more accurate predictions in case a real threat arises.

Bridenstine highlighted the scientific importance of both of these missions but added that planetary defense is also an important component.


Bridenstine explained that NASA is working to detect and track 90 percent of nearby asteroids measuring 459ft or larger, that could cause fatal damage upon impact with Earth.

"We have to use our systems, use our capabilities to ultimately get a lot more data, and we have to do it faster", Bridenstine said.

Members of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety are tracking an asteroid, 99942 Apophis, which will pass by Earth on April 13, 2029, closer than where weather satellites orbit.

There are approximately 18,000 known NEOs and that number is constantly growing.


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