White House Science chief warns Earth is vulnerable to major asteroid hit

By @vitthernandez on
Gandolfi Space Suit
Comex Space division manager Peter Weiss (L) checks the Gandolfi space suit of National Diving School director Jerome Vincent (R) during a training session in a swimming pool in Marseille October 22, 2014. The underwater test session develops European expertise in spacewalk simulations under partial gravity for exploring the Moon, asteroids and Mars. Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

In September, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said it would deploy the OSIRIS-REx to study the asteroid Bennu which has a small but significant 1 in 2,500 chance of hitting Earth. Despite NASA’s substantial progress in locating asteroids that pose the biggest threat to the planet, a lot of work still needs to be done.

John Holdren, director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, says the world is still vulnerable to an asteroid strike and it is not fully prepared. He points out it was a hazard which dinosaurs succumbed to 65 million years ago, reports Space.com.

“We have to be smarter than the dinosaurs,” Holdren says, if the world is going to be as capable a civilisation as technology allows in preparing for these rare events. He says the February 2013 meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk in Russia and the 1908 Tunguska airbursts are reasons to take seriously the asteroid threats.

At a discussion on NASA’s planned Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Holdren said on Wednesday the US$1.25 billion (A$1.67 billion) asteroid-retrieval mission makes sense in five different ways. These are helping researchers learn more about asteroids and resources it possess, demonstrate ways to bring astronauts to Mars, help NASA practice human operations in deep space and hone some of the skills required to deflect a potentially dangerous asteroid one day.

Michele Gates, ARM programme director, says the asteroid which NASA aims to send the ARM spacecraft is carbonaceous with compounds from the early formation of the solar system. It is made up 20 percent of water and has never been visited before, reports Inverse.

VIDEO: Asteroid Redirect Mission Robotic Trajectory and Crew Operations

Source: NASA.gov Video