Probe to Study Asteroid Too Close to Earth

Scientists weighing options on how to veer giant rock off collision course
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2007 6:27 AM CDT
An artist's rendition of Deep Space 1, an unmanned refrigerator-sized space craft launched by NASA on Saturday, October 24, 1998, to investigate asteroid 1992 KD. The mission to investigate Apophis could...   (KRT Photos)

(Newser) – Astronomers are preparing to send a probe to investigate an asteroid that in 2029 will pass closer to Earth than communications satellites do. The mission would gather information on the 1,000-foot-wide rock to figure out whether it poses a serious danger the next time it passes Earth in 2036.

The Apophis Mission Design Competition is the brainchild of the Planetary Society and drew over 100 entries. If Apophis does turn out to be on a collision course with Earth, it might be possible to ram it with a spacecraft or to fly something alongside it to pull it away from Earth's orbit. As a last resort, one scientist said, a nuclear bomb might work. (Read more space stories.)