NASA chief urges people to take the threat of a meteor strike more seriously

NASA chief urges people to take the threat of a meteor strike more seriously

There are a number of threats to life as we know it. While a recent 26-country survey released by the Pew Research Center said that global warming was the greatest threat, a NASA chief has now warned of a meteor strike this century.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA's most senior staff member, told the Planetary Defense Conference conference: "The reason for NASA to take this seriously is something you call the 'giggle factor.'

"We have to make sure people have to understand this is not about Hollywood. It's not about movies. This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know right now to host life, and that is the planet Earth."

This is Bridenstine's alarming speech: 

While making this announcement, Bridenstine cited the fact that a 20-meter meteor crashed over the Chelyabinsk region in central Russia in February 2013 - and did so while traveling at 40,000 miles per hour.

The people who were present experienced meteorites - small rocks that had broken off from the meteor itself - falling from the sky and many were injured as a result, the BBC reported.

The meteor itself was described as a fireball and is pictured below:

A meteor about to crash into the Earth. Credit: Supplied

Bridenstine said that this meteor was 30 times more powerful than the atomic bomb which devasted Hiroshima.

As a result of the incident, more than 1,400 people were hospitalized, CNN reported - many of whom had bee injured by flying glass.

"I wish I could tell you these events are exceptionally unique, but they are not," Bridenstine said.

A picture of the Earth from space. Credit: Pixabay

He explained that NASA's current system has predicted that they will take place once every 60 years and that the event which took place in Russia could have been more devastating as that very same day, a larger asteroid came within 17,000 miles of Earth, narrowly avoiding a collision.

NASA is currently developing plans to deal with meteors in the future to minimize their damage, either by evacuating the area that is about to be hit or by destroying the meteor before it enters the Earth's atmosphere.