According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, these sorts of meteor impacts could happen much more frequently than we might realize. In a statement made at the annual Planetary Defense Conference on Monday, Bridenstine quoted a paper estimating that a Chelyabinsk-type event could happen once every sixty years.
“These events are not rare; they happen,” said Bridenstine. “This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know, right now, to host life and that is the planet Earth.”
NASA has spent years attempting to catalogue all of the asteroids in the solar system that could pose a threat to us. That’s an extremely daunting task, considering that some asteroids still manage to sneak up on us sometimes. Many of these asteroids are small and tough to spot, so it’s very possible for a Chelyabinsk-type asteroid to hit us without much or any warning.
If that does happen, there’s a decent chance that the asteroid will explode harmlessly over the ocean or in an unpopulated area. But there’s also a chance that an asteroid could hit a major city, and Bridenstine thinks that chance is large enough to worry about.
At the Planetary Defense Conference happening this week, experts from around the world will come together to discuss the best methods for protecting the Earth from a possible meteor impact. As part of that conference, experts from multiple different agencies will get the chance to react to a simulated asteroid threat as a practice run for a real threat they may soon have to face.