Scientists have long been warning about meteor strikes, and now NASA warns that we could see another major one in the coming decades. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told the Planetary Defense Conference on Monday that a team is now working to protect Earth from future meteor strikes. Experts are also gathering at the conference to practice preparing for a potential strike.
According to multiple news outlets, Bridenstine’s speech at the conference centered on the meteor that struck Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. The giant space rock was approximately 65 feet in diameter, and more than 1,500 people were injured upon impact, while more than 7,000 buildings were damaged. According to the Independent, meteors of roughly that size strike Earth about once every 60 years on average. NBC News adds that the Chelyabinsk meteor struck earth with about 30 times the power of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
However, Bridenstine also warned that there have been three meteor events like the Chelyabinsk strike within the 100 years. He also said it’s a good thing the 100-foot asteroid referred to as Duende skidded by the Earth without striking us the same day the meteor struck Chelyabinsk. Unfortunately, Duende is expected to fly past our planet again in 2123.
The U.S. government has tasked NASA with tracking objects which are 460 feet in size or larger and flying close to Earth. However, the space agency has only identified about one-third of the approximately 25,000 such objects so far. According to KGUN-TV, the University of Arizona has identified about half of the space objects which could pose a threat to Earth.
Preparing for the next big meteor strike
The European Space Agency created a simulation of another meteor strike in 2028 and posted a video of it on YouTube. The video (which is embedded below) was also presented alongside the Planetary Defense Conference, which connected scientists with disaster response agencies with the ultimate goal of preparing for a major meteor strike. Experts are meeting to discuss the best ways to protect Earth from a strike.
According to Popular Mechanics, it’s quite possible that a meteor could crash into Earth without much warning. While there is a chance the space rock will simply explode over an ocean or unpopulated area of Earth, it may also crash into a major city. That’s why scientists are working to identify asteroids which threaten our planet as soon as possible. In addition to studying ways to identify such asteroids, the conference will also allow multiple agencies to respond to a drill.
Some preparations are already underway. NASA has already built its Space Launch System, which is expected to be used in 2024 when the next manned moon mission blasts off. The space agency is also working with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to test the ability to deflect meteors via the Double Asteroid Redirection Test. DART sends a rocket into a collision course with a near-Earth asteroid for the purpose of diverting its trajectory.