On average, objects of that size are estimated to hit Earth about once every 1,000 years.
“From the information we have, we don’t know of an asteroid that will threaten the population of the United States,” Bolden said. “But if it’s coming in three weeks, pray.”
In addition to stepping up its monitoring efforts and building international partnerships, NASA is looking at developing technologies to divert an object that may be on a collision course with Earth.
“The odds of a near-Earth object strike causing massive casualties and destruction of infrastructure are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large it makes sense to takes the risk seriously,” Holdren said.
About 66 million years ago, an object 6 miles (10 km) in diameter is believed to have smashed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, leading to the demise of the dinosaurs, as well as most plant and animal life on Earth.
The asteroid that exploded over Russia last month was the largest object to hit Earth’s atmosphere since the 1908 Tunguska event when an asteroid or comet exploded over Siberia, leveling 80 million trees over more than 830 square miles (2,150 sq km).