Asteroids could very well hit Earth in the near future and cause widespread destruction, according to NASA.

NASA's administrator emphasized the significance of planetary defense in protecting people against possible asteroid and comet impacts during his introductory speech at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference on April 29.

"We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it's not about movies," Jim Bridenstine, administrator of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), said. "This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know right now to host life, and that is the planet Earth."

Bridenstine shared his experience in his second month in Congress at the U.S. House of Representatives. He vividly described a huge asteroid that cut through the atmosphere and blasted over Chelyabinsk, Russia, causing flashes of heat and bright lights in the sky.

“So these events are not rare, they happen, and of course it’s up to us to make sure that we are detecting, characterizing and tracking all of the Near-Earth Objects that potential could be a threat to the world,” Bridenstine added.

The 2019 Planetary Defense Conference is hosted by the International Academy of Aeronautics. The program started Monday, April 29, and will continue until Friday, May 3, in Maryland. The bi-annual conference brings together world experts to prepare for a possible “Armageddon” brought by Near-Earth Objects (NEOs).

NEOs are asteroids or comets that occasionally approach close to Earth and could potentially impose property damage from time to time. The conference is conducted in preparation for disaster management planning for a potential NEO impact and determination of possible ways to the response.

"We have to use our systems, use our capabilities to ultimately get a lot more data, and we have to do it faster," Bridenstine said. "We know for a fact that the dinosaurs did not have a space program. But we do, and we need to use it.”

He also linked planetary defense with other key NASA priorities, the timeline of another human travel to the Moon and a space mission to reach Europa, Jupiter’s moon.

The event is in line with the mandate of the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan developed in June 2018.

Asteroid Impact September 2015 Will an asteroid impact Earth in September? Photo: Donald Davis