PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech PR) — On April 13, 2029, a speck of light will streak across the sky, getting brighter and faster. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper. But it won’t be a satellite or an airplane – it will be a 1,100-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) above the surface. That’s within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.
The international asteroid research community couldn’t be more excited.
In comments that baffled many experts worldwide, Roskosmos head Anatoly Perminov said his agency is considering a project to deflect the asteroid Apophis, which has a 1-in-233,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2036. RIA Novosti reports:
“A scientist recently told me an interesting thing about the path [of an asteroid] constantly nearing Earth… He has calculated that it will surely collide with Earth in the 2030s,” Anatoly Perminov said during an interview with the Voice of Russia radio.
Bruce Betts of the Planetary Society is blogging from the Planetary Defense Conference in Granada, Spain. He reports that the winners of the society’s Apophis Mission Design Competition are presenting their plans to rendezvous with the Apophis asteroid.
The Planetary Society has announced the winners of a competition to design a spacecraft that could intercept and track asteroids that might impact on Earth.
The Society awarded the $25,000 first-place prize to a team led by Spaceworks Engineering of Atlanta and SpaceDev of Poway, California. The team’s $137 million Foresight mission focuses primarily on tracking an asteroid.
Spaceworks and SpaceDev are hoping to launch Foresight between 2012-2014 to rendezvous with asteroid 2004 MN4, also known as Apophis. The asteroid will pass close to the Earth in 2029 and has a slight chance of striking our planet in 2036.