The highly dedicated B612 Foundation, named after the famous asteroid, has taken upon itself the mission of saving the Earth from collision with an asteroid. Although the Little Prince\’s planet is not going to crash into the Earth, there is another asteroid, discovered in 2004, that is scheduled to cross our path in 2029. Its name? Apophis, the Egyptian god of destruction, or 2004 NM4 to those in the know. A giant, 320 metres in diameter, which on 13 April 2029 will pass just 30,000 km from the Earth. On the scale of the solar system, that represents about the thickness of a sheet of paper. A bright star will be seen crossing the sky over Europe and North Africa. That is when we will probably find out whether Apophis is likely to collide with the Earth on its next passage in 2036, also on 13 April. The consequences would be unthinkable. If the asteroid were to plunge into the sea, it would create a catastrophic tidal wave; were it to hit land, so much dust would be thrown up into the atmosphere that it would trigger a climate cataclysm to match whatever caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
Under its President Russell Schweickart, a former Apollo programme astronaut, the B612 Foundation and its team of scientists, astronomers and astronauts are studying the risks posed by a collision between the Earth and an asteroid in the hope of preventing such a disaster. Since it was founded in 2002, the Foundation has come up with several action plans. The option finally chosen: to make use of gravity. This would be the simplest solution to put into practice, the least expensive and the least dangerous. The principle is simple: a massive and enormously heavy object must be placed in a close orbit around the asteroid. If this were done well enough in advance, the extra hundreds of kilometres of distance gained would be enough to put the Earth out of all harm\’s way. Ever since 1998, a Nasa programme has been identifying and tracking all objects in space over 1 km in diameter. There are over a thousand of them scattered along Earth\’s path, not to mention the smallest asteroids, which are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. A monitoring and early warning programme is being set up. Here is an original project that the foundation hopes to be able to develop in conjunction with Nasa, to be operational by 2015.
Watch this space!
Find out more: http://www.b612foundation.org/