NASA could land probe on asteroid hurtling towards Earth
NASA is considering plans to land a probe on an asteroid that is on a potential collision course with the Earth.
London: NASA is considering plans to land a probe on an asteroid that is on a potential collision course with the Earth.
The plan mirrors the plot of the 1998 Hollywood film "Armageddon", in which the White House sends a spaceship to land on an asteroid which is hurtling towards the Earth.
Asteroid 1999 RQ36, which has a 1-in-1,000 chance of hitting the Earth before the year 2200, would cause an explosion equivalent to hundreds of nuclear bombs detonating at once, reports the Telegraph.
An analysis of its orbit has predicted that it is most likely to hit on Sep 24, 2182 but scientists want to collect a sample of the rock to help forecast its trajectory more accurately.
If NASA gives the plan the green light, the spacecraft would blast off in 2106 to map out and collect rock samples from the asteroid, which is 1,800 feet wide.
The planned mission, called OSIRIS-Rex, is one of two finalists in competition for funding as part of the cash-strapped US space agency`s New Frontiers programme.
The other contender is a mission to land on Venus. The competing plans be discussed at a two-day NASA workshop in Washington starting Tuesday. The winner will be announced next year.
NASA has officially classified RQ36 as a "potentially hazardous asteroid" as it passes within about 280,000 miles of Earth. Its orbit, which brings it closer to Earth, makes it easier to reach than other asteroids.
Clark Chapman, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said an impact from RQ36 would cause a catastrophic explosion.
"It would be an enormous impact, like hundreds of the biggest nuclear bombs ever built exploding at once, creating a crater maybe 10 kilometers across," he told National Geographic magazine.
An expert panel appointed by US President Barack Obama to assess NASA`s future space programme last year recommended bypassing the Moon in favour of a mission to land on an unidentified asteroid.