Image: NASA: 'Pray' if Asteroid Heads Our Way Because No Defense Yet

NASA: 'Pray' if Asteroid Heads Our Way Because No Defense Yet

Wednesday, 20 Mar 2013 12:54 PM

By Alexandra Ward

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If an asteroid should come hurtling toward Times Square, New Yorkers are encouraged to "pray," NASA said Tuesday.

NASA head Charles Bolden, along with the White House science adviser and the head of the U.S. Space Command, was called to testify Tuesday at a Capitol Hill hearing as to whether anything could be done to stop an asteroid colliding with the Earth. The hearing, titled "Threats from Space: A Review of U.S. Government Efforts to Track and Mitigate Asteroids and Meteors," was called after a meteor exploded over central Russia last month.

"What would we do if you detected even a small one like the one that detonated in Russia headed for New York in three weeks? What would you do?" Republican Rep. Bill Posey of Florida asked.

"The answer to you is, if it's coming in three weeks, pray," Bolden said.

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Bolden said if the government developed laser technology, asteroids that pose a threat could be zapped and thrown off course, but the administration hasn't ponied up the money to fund such a venture. Experts have also suggested investing in satellite monitoring devices.

"We are where we are today because you all told us to do something — and between the Administration and the Congress ... the funding did not come," Bolden testified.

President Barack Obama's 2013 budget reportedly sought $20 million for asteroid protection compared to the current funding of $4 million a year, and aims to land astronauts on an actual asteroid by 2025.

Luckily, kilometer-plus asteroids — like the one suspected of killing off the dinosaurs — typically hit only once every 20,000 years and are large enough to spot well in advance of an impact.

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Bolden said NASA has identified and is tracking 9,600 so-called "near earth objects," none of which are on course to strike the Earth.

Related stories:

Earth to See Another Asteroid Pass, This One Within 600k Miles

NASA to Use 'Captured' Asteroid for Refueling Station

Asteroid Buzzes, Misses Earth Unlike Meteor

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