Russia vs. the United States: Whose Asteroid Model Do You Trust?

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Yesterday, the Russian space agency announced they are exploring plans for a mission to the asteroid Apophis, a 900-foot rock whose cosmic orbit overlaps the Earth's. In 2029 Apophis will just miss us, passing as close as 18,000 miles from earth.  That's inside the orbit of many satellites. Yikes.

The mission would be to somehow deflect the asteroid from hitting earth. The head of Russia's space program, Anatoly Perminov, says that the asteroid "...will surely collide with the Earth in the 2030s."

NASA's Near Earth Object Program is also keeping a close eye on this bugger. Interestingly, NASA's predictions put the odds of an impact in 2036 at approximately one in 250,000 - much, much more unlikely than those calculated by our Russian friends.

Let's hope the two agencies huddle up soon to compare their numbers.

Here's a link to NASA's page that discusses the threat of cosmic impacts, and to a 2009 National Academies report. Both detail a surprisingly high level of international unpreparedness.

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