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Prize offered to tag an asteroid


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A $50,000 (£25,000) competition has been launched to find the best way to tag a 400m-wide asteroid.

The Apophis space rock is set to make a close pass of Earth in 2029 and scientists would like to confirm that it poses no danger to our world.

The Planetary Society will give a prize to the designers of a mission that would allow the huge asteroid's orbit to be tracked with the most precision.

The competition has support from the US and European space agencies.

"The threat of a strike from asteroids is always a very low probability at any given time, and yet bad things will happen," said the Planetary Society's director of projects, Bruce Betts. "We need to know whether Earth's name is on it," he told BBC News.

Apophis will come closer to Earth in 2029 than the orbits of many communications satellites - but it will not hit the planet, that is clear.

The concern centres on the small chance that its orbit could be perturbed enough in the flyby to put the rock on a collision path for its return in 2036.

More here: http://tinyurl.com/y6xfr7

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