A mission to smash into a space rock to deflect it and study its structure has been given priority over five other potential asteroid projects by the European Space Agency…Scientists don’t know enough about asteroid insides to predict how one would respond to attempts to nudge it off an Earth-impact course or turn it into harmless dust. While no asteroids are currently known to be on track to hit the planet, experts say a regional catastrophe is inevitable in the very long run– over millennia. And run-ins with small asteroids that could incinerate a large city occur ever few thousand years.
It’s nice to see the Europeans supplying a global public good of this kind.
…the mission could launch in five to six years.
Don Quijote [the project’s name, probably not a political winner] is similar to NASA’s Deep Impact mission, which is slated to fling a small probe at a comet on July 4, 2005.