- Plan is similar to the plot of Hollywood film Armageddon
By Fiona Macrae
Last updated at 11:42 AM on 18th August 2011
Scientists plan to smash a spacecraft into an asteroid so that they are prepared for having to stop one hurtling towards Earth.
The news came as Nasa moved to calm fears that a comet is on a collision course with our planet.
The plans for a test mission to stop an asteroid from colliding with Earth come from Nasa’s cousin, the European Space Agency.
Rescue plan: The European Space Agency is planning mission Don Quijote - to blow up a huge asteroid that could potentially be hurtling towards Earth
In the Hollywood movie Armageddon, Bruce Willis attempts to blow up a huge asteroid hurtling towards Earth.
In real life, the mission, called Don Quixote, will see two spacecraft launched.
One will be fired at an asteroid at break-neck speed in an attempt to push it off its course. The other will analyse data with the aim of informing future missions in which the future of mankind may be at stake.
One potential target for the test mission is a 1,600ft-wide asteroid called 99942 Apophis, which has a tiny chance – around one in 250,000 – of hitting Earth in 2036.
Nasa scientists yesterday took the unusual step of officially dismissing claims sweeping the internet that comet Elenin, discovered by an astronomer last December, is on a deadly course.
Brucey bonus: Armageddon starred Bruce Willis as the leader of a team of astronauts who destroy an asteroid that threatens to wipe out Earth
Scare stories include the comet plunging the Earth into darkness for three days by blocking out the sun, colliding with Earth, moving tides or continents and throwing the planet off orbit.
It is even claimed that a fleet of UFOs are streaking towards us in the comet’s wake, and that Nasa has conspired with media organisations to create a news blackout on the comet to avoid mass panic sweeping the world.
But the space agency said Elenin will never come closer to Earth than 22million miles and will not compromise our planet in any way.
An official said: ‘The truth is that Elenin has received much more attention than it deserves due to a variety of internet postings that are untrue.’