“I wish I could tell you that these events are exceptionally unique, but they are not,” is what the former Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jim Bridenstine, told to an assembly of experts in early 2019 about the possibility of a massive meteor striking planet Earth.
The scientists’ group was no other than that year’s Planetary Defense Conference, as organized by the International Academy of Astronautics.
The Academy, of which only the foremost experts in aeronautics and space exploration, heard Bridenstine’s warnings with solemn faces. They were perfectly aware that he wasn’t exaggerating.
Every year, the Earth is hit by no less than six thousand meteorites. And although most of them are too small to cause any significant damage, one thing is sure: we are not out of harm’s way.
Keep reading and find out about what Bridenstine said at that conference and what NASA knows about the possibility of a significant meteor impacting the surface of the Earth.
10 Dangerous Warning: 2013
To begin with his observation on the seriousness of the problem, Bridenstine took the case of an event that has nowadays mostly been forgotten: in 2013, a meteorite entered the atmosphere before exploding over the Russian city Chelyabinsk, leaving over 1,400 people wounded by fragments of space rock.
The explosion was up to thirty times as potent as the atomic bomb that was dropped over Hiroshima in WWII, as the meteor measured over sixty-six feet and weighed nearly 12,000 tonnes.
This makes it the largest object to enter the Earth’s atmosphere from space since 1908, the Tunguska event’s date.
9 Looking Further Back
Indeed, the 20th century saw its share of these impacts or near-impacts. The 1908 Tunguska event was another meteor impact, this time of a meteor of over 330 feet in size, making it the largest object ever to impact the Earth in recorded history.
It killed no less than eighty million trees, as it fell in a densely forested Siberia area, also in Russia.
In 1972, equally, a meteor of nearly the size of a house passed the Earth’s orbit and was seen in the United States and Canada before going back into space. The collision could have been severely damaging, as it passed over populated areas.