That's reassuring: Nasa chief Charles Bolden's advice on asteroid heading for Earth: just pray

Head of Nasa made statement at hearing held to establish what was being done and how much money is needed to better protect the planet for asteroids and meteors

Last year, in an effort to tackle the myths surrounding the belief that the world would end on December 21st, Nasa set up a website to debunk theories about 'Mayan Prophecies', and even released a video explaining why Armageddon was not imminent.

Nasa chief Charles Bolden was somewhat less reassuring, however, when asked this week for advice on how to handle a large asteroid headed toward New York City.

His suggestion: Pray.

Mr Bolden gave his stark advice to lawmakers at a US House of Representatives Science Committee hearing on Tuesday, telling them that all that anyone in the US, or indeed anywhere, could do about unknown asteroids or meteors on a collision course with earth is offer up a prayer.

Last month an asteroid, estimated to be have been about 55 feet (17 meters) in diameter exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, generating shock waves that shattered windows and damaged buildings.

More than 1,500 people were injured.

On the same day an asteroid, which was discovered by scientists last year, passed about 17,200 miles (27,681 km) from Earth, closer than the network of television and weather satellites that ring the planet.

US House of Representatives Science Committee chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, called the hearing held on Tuesday in response to the events of last month.

The hearing was held to establish what was being done and how much money is needed to better protect the planet.

"We were fortunate that the events of last month were simply an interesting coincidence rather than a catastrophe," he told the committee.

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat, told the hearing that the events: "serve as evidence that we live in an active solar system with potentially hazardous objects passing through our neighborhood with surprising frequency."

Nasa has found and is tracking about 95 percent of the largest objects flying near Earth, those that are .62 miles (1 km) or larger in diameter.

"An asteroid of that size, a kilometer or bigger, could plausibly end civilization," White House science advisor John Holdren told legislators at the same hearing.

But only about 10 percent of an estimated 10,000 potential "city-killer" asteroids, those with a diameter of about 165 feet (50 meters) have been found, Holdren added.

On average, objects of that size are estimated to hit Earth about once every 1,000 years.

Although it may seem like the stuff of science-fiction disaster movies, experts are seriously considering how to deflect or destroy meteorites or asteroids set on a collision course with our planet.

The ideas range from the outlandish to barely plausible, but no single idea - as Russia discovered to its cost last month, appears to provide all the answers.

Sun-powered space lasers, gravity tractor beams, or a nuclear device have all been suggested by people attempting to solve the problem of how to stop asteroids and meteors from hitting the earth.

In addition to stepping up its monitoring efforts and building international partnerships, Nasa is reported to be also looking at developing technologies to divert an object that may be on a collision course with Earth.

However most monitoring systems are considered to be inadequate.

Bolden told the committee: "From the information we have, we don't know of an asteroid that will threaten the population of the United States but if it's coming in three weeks, pray."

White House science advisor John Holdren told the committee: "The odds of a near-Earth object strike causing massive casualties and destruction of infrastructure are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large it makes sense to takes the risk seriously."

The asteroid that exploded over Russia last month was the largest object to hit Earth's atmosphere since the 1908 Tunguska event when an asteroid or comet exploded over Siberia, leveling 80 million trees over more than 830 square miles (2,150 sq km).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Recruitment Genius: Social Media & Content Marketing Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing, Google certi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 business...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn