The House wants to save us from asteroid impacts

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June 29 2008 12:06 PM

The House wants to save us from asteroid impacts

In the new NASA appropriations bill passed by the House* (and must get matched with the Senate version) there is a line asking the NASA Administrator to look into seeing what they can do about Apophis.

Apophis is an asteroid that'll pass pretty close to Earth in 2029; in fact it'll be closer than our own geosynchronous satellites! It won't hit, but its exact path is unknown; if it passes at just the right distance, the Earth's gravity will warp the asteroid's path just enough that the next time it comes in -- in 2036 -- it'll hit.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Ouch.

A good thing to do is to plant a radio transponder on Apophis to be able to track it accurately and see what this thing will do in 2029 and 2036. That's what the House line item says to do.

The Administrator shall issue requests for information on [...] a low-cost space mission with the purpose of rendezvousing with, attaching a tracking device, and characterizing the Apophis asteroid, which scientists estimate will in 2029 pass at a distance from Earth that is closer than geostationary satellites...

That's pretty fracking cool. NASA should be doing this anyway, but I hope that with Congress leaning on them they'll make it happen.


*I can't link directly to it as far as I can tell. You can read it by going to Thomas (the Congress search engine), searching on asteroid, clicking on "H.R.6063.RFS", then clicking on Section 803. Phew!

Tip o' the Whipple Shield to Ray Kurzweil and Fark.