Scientists are optimistic that the Earth is safe from any asteroid impact, including the asteroid Bennu that they estimate has a one in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth in the next 150 years. However, John Holdren, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, says that we are not yet fully prepared to face such problem, and our planet is still vulnerable to an asteroid strike.
While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has made significant progress over the years, Holdren asserts that there is still a lot of work to do. The Science and Technology Policy Director cites that the February 2013 meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk in Russia and the 1908 Tunguska airbursts are just two of the many reasons why we need to take the threat very seriously.
Experts say that incidents like the Chelyabinsk impact only happen once every hundred years while cases like the Tunguska event are even rarer, happening only once every 1,000 years. Despite the rarity of such incidents, Holdren advises that we should not take them for granted as they can still do a lot of damage to our planet.
“This is a hazard that 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs succumbed to,” Holdren points out. “We have to be smarter than them.”
Holdren also discussed that the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) could help solve the asteroid problem. The mission, which is estimated to cost around US$1.25 billion (AU $1.67 billion), can help us understand more about asteroids.
Apart from helping experts understand what it takes to deflect an asteroid impact in the future, NASA adds that it is also part of the plan to advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience crucial to conduct upcoming human mission to Mars in the 2030s.
More information about the mission can be viewed through a video uploaded by NASA on YouTube.