Even small asteroids can strike with the force of several nuclear bombs, and only a third of such ‘near-earth’ objects have been discovered. According to a June 2018 White House report, this means there are tens of thousands of asteroids big enough to wipe out a city that we’re not even aware of yet. The same report concludes that even with current and planned capabilities, less than half of such space rocks will be located by 2033.

Retired astronaut Russell Schweickart has demanded that NASA launch a Near-Earth Object Camera – a small infrared observatory – and quickly, if we want to avoid a cataclysmic impact event.

Mr Schweickart, an aerospace engineer retired astronaut who flew on the Apollo 9 mission, told Business Insider: “It’s a critical discovery telescope to protect life on Earth, and it’s ready to go.

For God’s sake, fund it as a mainline program. Don’t put it in yet another competition with science.

“This is a public safety program.

“NASA has a responsibility to do it, and it’s not happening.

“It needs to be put into the NASA budget both by NASA and by the Congress.”

The developers of the space camera have pitched to NASA three times – and three times they were rejected.

The NASA competition it was a part of, Discovery, values scientific firsts — not ensuring humanity’s safety — and thus did not grant the nearly $450 million to develop the spacecraft and a rocket with which to launch it.

An enormous asteroid with enough power to cause chaos on Earth flew by the planet on Sunday afternoon, NASA warned.

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The deadly asteroid, larger than a two-story house has been named by NASA as Asteroid 2018 WN.

The space rock skimmed past Earth, making its closest appearance to our planet when it blasted past at 11.49am GMT.

Although NASA astronomers have calculated the asteroid was not on a trajectory to collide into our world, its destructive potential is nonetheless awe-inspiring.

In 2013, a 70 foot-wide asteroid was seen streaking across the sky over Russia before landing near the town of Chelyabinsk.

The force of the impact was estimated to be over 30 times that of the nuclear detonation at Hiroshima and shattered windows injuring 1500 people.

In 1908, an asteroid exploded in the remote Tunguska area of Russia, flattening trees over an area nearly twice the size of New York City.

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