12/15/2006

Innovative solution for subverting armageddeon...

Prize offered to tag an asteroid

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Apophis, a quarter-mile wide asteroid named after the Egyptian mythical demon of evil and destruction, is on a collision course with Earth-- maybe. NASA has already concluded that the asteroid will come closer than many of our current communications satellites when it passes in 2029, but depending upon the effect Earth's gravity has on the comets' orbit, it could be pulled into a direct collision course with our planet on its return in 2036. In an attempt to draw upon the collective resources and creative problem solving of the world's many stargazers, the Planetary Society has offered a $50,000 prize to anyone who can offer a sound proposal for tagging the asteroid to determine the probability that it will be sucked into a path of destruction.

Despite the fact that Apophis needs to pass through a 'keyhole several hundred meters wide' in order to become a serious threat to impact Earth (which seems rather insignificant in an astrophysical sense) this provides humans with the first tangible opportunity to affect their destiny as a species against the previously impervious forces of nature. It has long been thought that dinosaurs perished as a result of a cataclysmic impact from a meteor similar to Apophis, but because of their lack of advanced intelligence they were wholly ignorant of their fate until they were engulfed in an atmosphere that could no longer sustain their ecosystem. Had we faced such a danger even 50 years ago, the human race would have been close to powerless against an impending impact from an asteroid, but because of the great technological progress of the late 20th century, and assuming continued progression at or above current rates, human-beings have created for themselves an opportunity to become the first Earthly species to have complete control over its fate. Remarkable, aren't we?
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