A House panel heard today that the country is ill-prepared to even detect a 100-meter-diameter asteroid that could wipe out a city or cause other catastrophic effects such as a smothering dust cloud or towering tsunami waves.

Lawmakers have been on edge about America’s ability to react to or even notice in time space rocks coming through the atmosphere since the Feb. 15 flyby of asteroid 2012DA14 coupled with the explosion of a meteor above Chelyabinsk, Siberia.

As scientists predicted, 2012DA14 was harmless but the shock wave from the Russian meteor blew out windows and injured 1,200 people.

That rock caught NASA as off-guard as the Siberian residents.

“It came out of the sun,” John Holdren, director of the White House office of science and technology policy, told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee today. “It came from a direction where our telescopes could not look. We cannot look into the sun.”

“We had no insight in that at all,” said Gen. William Shelton, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command. “We were aware of the event when it occurred.”

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