It had only been a month for the new NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine when a massive asteroid made its way towards the earth. This asteroid had exploded above Chelyabinsk, a city based in Russia. Like a second sun, blazing its way through the sky, it definitely left a lasting mark in the memories of the residents of Chelyabinsk.
In an event held during the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference of International Academy of Astronautics, College Park, Maryland. Bridenstine had started his speech by referencing the Chelyabinsk event and describing the important role that science plays in Earth’s defense against such extra celestial bodies. The fact is that people should understand that the threat is much more real than fiction, depicted in popular Hollywood movies. He also made reference to the giggle factor – that is mainly responsible for the mass to ridicule and undermine the risks associated with a real asteroid impact. The fact that the whole cause is taken to protect the only planet that currently has the capability to sustain us is taken for granted by many of us.
Bridenstine also focused his attention over the two ongoing missions, the Japanese Hayabusa2 visiting the asteroid Ryugu and NASA’s very own OSIRIS-REx making its way towards Bennu. NASA has termed its first planetary defense project as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test or Dart. The following mission is estimated to launch in 2022. Both the Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx will conduct much more than only collecting vital information regarding the asteroids. It would provide a Proof of concept for such future missions as well.
Bridenstine conveyed that the primary objective of the missions is much broader than conventional discovery and science. Such missions would pave the way to characterize asteroids and spot any future threats which may make its way toward the Earth.