Monday, January 4, 2010

Can Russia Stop the Sky from Falling on Us? Da or Nyet?

The New York Times reports that Russia’s space agency RKA plans to intercept and deflect a large asteroid heading our way. NASA estimates the 1000-foot-wide asteroid Apophis will pass within 20,000 miles of Earth in 2029 and will make a second pass at us in 2036. As Earth orbits the Sun at a speed of 66,000 miles per hour, this means Apophis is projected to miss Earth by 17 minutes, give or take. RKA plans to launch a space craft to push Apophis off course and away from Earth. Former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickert voiced concern that a miscalculation by RKA could send Apophis crashing into Earth. As this would be the first time anyone has attempted to deflected an asteroid, Schweickert suggests experimenting on a more distant asteroid that wouldn’t hit us in case RKA’s efforts aren’t A-OK.

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