Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fact following fiction? Scientists plan mission to blow up an asteroid 'hurtling towards Earth'

Scientists plan to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid so that they are prepared for having to stop one hurtling towards Earth. The news came as Nasa moved to calm fears that a comet is on a collision course with our planet. The plans for a test mission to stop an asteroid from colliding with Earth come from Nasa’s cousin, the European Space Agency.

One will be fired at an asteroid at break-neck speed in an attempt to push it off its course. The other will analyse data with the aim of informing future missions in which the future of mankind may be at stake.

One potential target for the test mission is a 1,600ft-wide asteroid called 99942 Apophis, which has a tiny chance – around one in 250,000 – of hitting Earth in 2036.

Nasa scientists yesterday took the unusual step of officially dismissing claims sweeping the internet that comet Elenin, discovered by an astronomer last December, is on a deadly course.

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