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British plan to tackle asteroids

A team of British scientists and engineers is developing plans for a spacecraft that could stop large asteroids from hitting the Earth. The 10-tonne "gravity tractor" would deflect any orbiting rocks years before any potential collision could happen. The device would rely on the force of gravity. The tractor would intercept the asteroid from just 48m away and exert a small gravitational force on it, pulling the rock towards it. The pair would then embark on a slightly different orbit, away from the Earth. It could possibly be powered using solar panels. "We have done quite a lot of design work on this with the European Space Agency and we believe this would work just as well on a big solid iron asteroid as well as other types." However, the device would have to be launched at least 15 years before any predicted collision and would need a team to monitor it from the ground during this time. However, the idea is still in its early stages and the company says a prototype is some way off from being built. NASA has recorded 1,068 known "Potentially Hazardous Asteroids", however there are thousands more estimated to be present in space.
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