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Is It Science Or Hollywood?

August 17, 2011

There seems to be no limits on what might be possible.

It seemed a bit far-fetched when Hollywood dreamt up the script, but now ESA is in talks to launch a mission in 2015 that will see a satellite fired at break-neck speed into a “test” asteroid to see if it changes course.

Despite Internet babble about the 1,600-foot-wide asteroid Apophis that space experts predict will miss earth by a few hundred thousand miles in 2036, no such danger has been detected. Yet, that hasn’t stopped scientists at ESA, NASA, and the Secure World Foundation from intently studying a course of action should a potential planet-shattering asteroid come our way.

The idea is pretty simple: if we see an asteroid on an impact trajectory with earth, our best option is to change the orbit so it doesn’t hit us. While we could attempt to blow it up, that would leave a ton of debris that could still fall down to earth.

ESA’s plan is more of diversion. By impacting the incoming asteroid with enough advance time, the orbit can be changed, without any collateral damage.

The biggest problem with the idea is how much of an impact do you need? Scientists aren’t exactly sure.

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