NASA launch mission to stop ‘KILLER asteroid’: Giant rock could kill millions in 150 years

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#Asteroid #NASANASA launch mission to stop KILLER asteroid: Giant rock could kill millions in 150 years : The unmanned OSIRIS-REx space craft launched on Thursday, with the target of landing on the potentially deadly asteroid Bennu by 2018.

In a further five years it should return to our planet with samples from the potential country killer, which it is feared could strike us in the next 200 years. The crucial data gathered will then be used to help stop the monster asteroid.

At an estimated 500 metres in length, the mega rock would be unlikely to end life on Earth, but could cause widespread devastation and even wipe out a country. The asteroid is set to pass close to the Earth in 2135.

So close in fact, that it is feared the gravitational pull of our planet could pull it in closer for a hit during another passby later that century. The mission was last night praised by Planetary Science Division director at NASA, Jim Green.

He cheered: “Nasa did it again.” NASA chief scientist, Ellen Stofan added: “Tonight is a night for celebration. We are on our way to an asteroid.” Mission organisers hailed the launch as a success saying it was hitting all its early milestones.

Rich Kuhns, OSIRIS-REx programme manager, said: “The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is happy and healthy.” Bennu was discovered by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) Project on September 11, 1999.

The asteroid passes our orbit every six years, coming as close as 180,000 miles of Earth, or as far away as 211 million miles. Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator, said: “That 2135 fly-by is going to tweak Bennu’s orbit, potentially putting it on course for the Earth later that century.

“It may be destined to cause immense suffering and death. “We’re not talking about an asteroid that could destroy the Earth. “We’re not anywhere near that kind of energy for an impact.” The asteroid believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs was an estimated 6 miles wide.

So the OSIRIS-REx mission is a vital one that could safeguard the future of Earth. It will allow scientists to develop ways for dealing with asteroids on a collision course with Earth.