The European Space Agency may team up with NASA to launch a 2020 mission against a dangerous asteroid headed for earth.
Planetary scientists and experts have released an open letter urging support for the mission.
The space agencies plan to crash a probe into a 160m wide asteroid and deflect it from its course.
Actors Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis similarly tried stopping an asteroid that was threatening to collide with earth, in the 1998 disaster movie Armageddon.
Daily Star reports:
It comes after the Chelyabinsk meteor, which was just 20m wide, exploded over Russia in 2013.
The impact injured 1,200 people and damaged thousands of buildings, and many witnesses felt intense heat.
Scientists fear that a bigger asteroid, like the one they want to deflect, has the potential to wipe out a whole city.
Alan Harris of the German Aerospace Centre, who signed the letter, said humanity had to learn more about near-earth objects.
“We know the approximate number of objects in the different size classes, but we know almost nothing about their characteristics.
“To prepare for the deflection of an asteroid, we need to know much more,” he was quoted as saying by Space.com.
The scientists’ letter warns that there are currently more than 1,700 hazardous asteroids near the Earth.
The one to be targeted by the mission is the smaller of the Didymos asteroids, which passes close to Earth in 2022.
Under the plan, an ESA spacecraft will take measurements of the asteroid mapping its surface, sub-surface and interior.
With that, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) probe will arrive and slam straight into the surface.
In early December, ESA bosses will meet in Lucerne, Switzerland, to decide whether to fund the mission.
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