Ex-astronaut: killer asteroids pose real threat to Earth - New York News

Ex-astronaut: killer asteroids pose real threat to Earth

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NASA/JPL/JHUAPL image NASA/JPL/JHUAPL image
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

That an asteroid hasn't destroyed a major city on Earth yet is simply "luck," according to a former astronaut who is part of a foundation sounding the alarm about the danger of objects from space.

"While most large asteroids with the potential to destroy an entire country or continent have been detected, less than 10,000 of the more than a million dangerous asteroids with the potential to destroy an entire major metropolitan area have been found by all existing space or terrestrially-operated observatories," said Dr. Ed Lu, a former NASA astronaut who flew two Shuttle Atlantis missions and one Soyuz mission. "Because we don’t know where or when the next major impact will occur, the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a 'city-killer' sized asteroid has been blind luck."

Lu, co-founder and CEO of B612 Foundation, pointed out that between 2000 and 2013, at least 26 large asteroids slammed into the Earth atmosphere and exploded with enough force to be detected by the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization's network of sensors designed to pick up nuclear explosions. Those blasts ranged in energy from 1 to 600 kilotons. The atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 exploded with 15 kilotons of energy. The asteroid explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, measured about 600 kilotons.

B612 released a narrated video that shows a visualization of those impacts and their locations. The foundation is seeking to build a $250 million space telescope called Sentinel that would track asteroids that could pose a threat to the planet.

NASA already tracks asteroids and comets and has been doing so since the 1970s. In 2010, the agency completed a congressionally mandated search of at least 90 percent of 1-kilometer-sizes near-Earth objects (NEOs) and is now searching for smaller ones, according to the agency's website.

Resources:

B612 Foundation

Sentinel Mission Overview

NASA Asteroid and Comet Watch

NASA's Search for Asteroids to Help Protect Earth

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