Bolden made the statement at a House Committee on Science, Space and Technology meeting when he was asked about such an event.
The manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, Donald Yeomans, told CBS there are many small meteors currently in orbit, but very little in place with respect to an early warning system to detect them.
Yeomans, the author of “Near-Earth Objects: Finding Them Before They Find Us,” added that the best way to predict a meteor hit would be by using a space-based infrared telescope.
CBS notes that at the House Committee meeting, the head of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, Gen. William Shelton, admitted the U.S. did not know the meteor that hit Russia on Feb. 15 was going to make contact.
According to CBS, there is currently a project being worked on called the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), which is slated to give a one week warning for a 148-foot meteor impact or a three week warning for a 450-foot meteor impact. It is expected to be up and running by the end of 2015.
Even with ATLAS in place in a couple of years, there is still no technology being used to destroy or head off a meteor from striking.
“The technology is there,” Yeomans told CBS, “the question is do we have enough time to plan, build, launch and intercept these objects prior to an impact.”
The good news is “The odds of a near-Earth object strike causing massive casualties and destruction of infrastructure are very small,” John Holdren, senior adviser to President Barack Obama on science and technology issues, told Congress, reports CBS.
He added, “But the potential consequences of such an event are so large it makes sense to take the risk seriously… We are where we are today because… you all told us to do something and between the administration and the Congress, the funding to do that did not—the bottom line is always the funding did not come.”
According to CBS, Apophis, a 1,000 foot wide asteroid, is expected to come within 20,000 miles of Earth in 2029. If it were to make direct contact, it could “wipe a nation off the face of the planet,” CBS reports. The major media outlet writes a plan exists to land on the asteroid and mine it for minerals, which may eventually result in an effort to detect and take care of such objects in the future.