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Starlyte

Asteroid Tugboat Backed for Trial

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In the grand cosmic scheme of things, it's only a matter of time. Our planet is bound to tangle with an Earth-crossing asteroid, an event sure to make a mess. Some of these space rocks could demolish a city. Other monster boulders, the really big bruisers, could snuff out our civilization.

But why be at the mercy of a menacing asteroid that has Earth in its cross hairs? Now an expert team of astronauts and space scientists has blueprinted a safety strategy for Earth: an asteroid tugboat. The group says NASA is already working on the right recipe of technologies to make the tug a reality. It would be the greatest public safety project in history. Furthermore, they propose a mission to demonstrate the asteroid-tug concept by 2015.

Details of the asteroid tug are unveiled in the November 2003 issue of Scientific American.

Lead author of the article is former astronaut, Rusty Schweickart, Apollo 9's lunar module pilot that put the Moon landing craft through its paces high above Earth in March 1969. Other contributors are Piet Hut, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and asteroid specialist, Clark Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute here in Boulder.

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Once the B612 tug is in contact with the asteroid, the craft would softly push the rocky body for over three months.

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In February 2000, NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft found a slowly spinning asteroid Eros. Nudging asteroids to avoid them striking Earth may mean de-spinning the celestial space rocks.

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In the grand cosmic scheme of things, it's only a matter of time. Our planet is bound to tangle with an Earth-crossing asteroid, an event sure to make a mess. Some of these space rocks could demolish a city. Other monster boulders, the really big bruisers, could snuff out our civilization.

And I bet there will be a massive rift between science and other cultures who firmly believe that we should not mess the the "grand scheme of things" in nature... My mom and I were just debating this the other day (about the fact that many spiritual cultures firmly believe that we should not interfere with nature and let nature run it's course)...

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