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SCIENTISTS will today crash a space probe into an asteroid 150 million miles away in an operation which might one day save the earth.

America's Near Shoemaker probe has been orbiting Eros for a year.

Now controllers will attempt the first landing on an asteroid to gather information which could prove vital if a large chunk of space rock is spotted heading towards the earth. Destroying an asteroid with rockets or nuclear bombs, or knocking it off course, remains a remote theoretical possibility.

But scientist Edward Weiler said: "This marks the start of in-depth reconnaissance of objects which have in the past caused some bad days for species on earth, especially the dinosaurs."

Shoemaker has sent back 160,000 pictures and other scientific data on the peanut-shaped asteroid which is about 20 miles long.

Controllers plan to take close-ups from less than a mile up before the pounds 150million probe lands.

Mission head Robert Farquhar said: "The mission is ending so we might as well go out with something spectacular."
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 12, 2001
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