NASA's most senior staff member has issued a warning to his fellow earthlings, saying the threat of giant meteors hitting the planet is very real and should not be scoffed at.
What are the details?
Speaking at the Planetary Defense Conference on Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said his agency is committed to making the public aware of the dangers posed by meteors hitting earth, especially because many people laugh off the possibility, Business Insider reported.
"The reason it's important for NASA to take this seriously is something you call the 'giggle factor,'" Bridenstine explained. "We have to make sure people understand this is not about Hollywood. It's not about movies. This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know right now to host life, and that is the planet Earth."
Bridenstine pointed to the meteor that caused significant damage in Russia six years ago, sending 1,500 people to the hospital for treatment of injuries.
"When it finally exploded 18 miles above the surface," he said, "it had ... 30 times the energy of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima."
Although Bridenstine was speaking to a room full of scientists from around the world, he told them his warning wasn't intended for them, since they "already know," but for the audience following his speech on Facebook and Twitter.
"We know for a fact that the dinosaurs did not have a space program. We know that to be true. But we do," he continued, "and we need to use it."
Bridenstine said NASA is currently working on directives from a 2018 White House action plan requiring the space agency to detect, track, and characterize 90 percent of Earth-threatening celestial objects that measure 460 feet in diameter or larger. A meteor of that size could "destroy a state in the United States of America" or "destroy an entire European country," he explained.
The NASA chief also asked for help.
"We're only about a third of the way there," Bridenstine said. "We want more international partners that can join us in this effort. We want more systems on the face of the Earth that can detect and track these objects."
While the notion is reminiscent of the plot of the Bruce Willis film, "Armageddon," NASA is also taking action to figure out to stop giant asteroids before they hit the planet. NBC News reported that Elon Musk's SpaceX has been awarded a $69 million contract for a mission that "will test the earth's capability of deflecting an asteroid by colliding a spacecraft with it at high speed."