EARTH is under threat from A MILLION untracked asteroids hurtling through space and our planet is devastatingly unprepared, scientists warned last night.
Space experts from around the world rallied to warn a colossal missile capable of destroying cities and even wiping out civilisation could strike at any moment.
The chilling alert came at the unveiling of a major drive to protect Earth from a “life altering” disaster similar to that which destroyed the dinosaurs.
Experts have called for a massive investment to locate and track a million potentially deadly asteroids currently not on any radar but which pose a huge risk to Earth.
Research scientist and US astronaut Rusty Schweickart said it is “only a matter of time” before one hits. He warned it is out there “with our address on it”.
He said an asteroid 65 million years ago was not only responsible for killing off the dinosaurs but 70 per cent of other species on the planet.
He said: “Asteroids hit, and they hit the Earth, these impacts really do happen and when they do they can really kill, and kill big.
“In the 90s the realisation was that they still happen and they happen quite dramatically.
“In 2000 the big realisation was that it is just a matter of time, there is one out there with our address on stand the big question is could it be deflected.”
He said the only way to divert an asteroid before it hits the Earth is an early warning that it is coming, something technology can not currently predict.
He said: “This is a global problem, and requires worldwide cooperation.
“We cannot deflect an asteroid without knowing the timing and the impact point on Earth.
“The bottom line is that the way to protect Earth and life from asteroid impact is to find them early…find them early…find them early.
“This is a project to divert dangerous objects, we need to protect life on Earth, we know we can do it, we are all in this together.”
Around 99 per cent of all asteroids capable of hitting the planet are currently undetected, leaving scientists and Government officials in the dark as to their size, speed or course.
Announcing June 30 as Asteroid Day, the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska event which saw a massive object crash into Russia causing huge damage, scientists hope to raise awareness of the “very real threat” of a repeat.
Huge names in science, astronomy and even showbusiness including Queen guitarist Brian May, astronomer Brian Cox and controversial author Richard Dawkins have pledged their support.
Speaking at an event last night experts said vital research is needed to locate undiscovered asteroids and prevent a “global” catastrophe.
Brian May said: “There are probably around a million objects out there that can destroy a city or maybe even worse.
“Of these we have tracked around one per cent so we have a huge bridge to cross to prepare for what is coming at us.
“This is a world problem and we are hoping to be 100 times more vigilant in the next 10 years if we are to stand a chance of mapping all these objects and save the planet from a possible big disaster.”
Science engineer and former NASA astronaut Ed Lu said experts have no idea when the next major impact could happen.
He said: “There are a million asteroids large enough to destroy a city out there and we have tracked fewer than one per cent of them.
“We don’t know when the next major asteroid impact will happen, how do we step up our game by a factor of 100? That would give us a fighting chance, that would give us a better chance than the dinosaurs.
“We are actually talking about protecting planet Earth from an asteroid impact.”
Astronaut Tom Jones said: “The asteroid hazard is a global one, this is the most serious threat we can assist in preventing.
“We can no longer be passive observers, we must take global action to protect the Earth from the next destructive asteroid impact.”
Asteroid Day was launched at two events at London’s Science Museum and the California Academy of Sciences in San Fransisco, America.
A speech made by Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees warned: “As scientists and citizens, we strive to solve humanity’s greatest challenges to safeguard our families and quality of life on Earth in the future.
“Asteroids impact Earth: such events, without intervention, will cause great harm to our societies, communities and families around the globe. Unlike other natural disasters, we know how to prevent asteroid impacts.
“There are a million asteroids in our solar system that have the potential to strike Earth and destroy a city, yet we have discovered less than 10,000 — just one percent — of them.
“We have the technology to change that situation.”