Astronomers have good news and bad news. The good: A huge asteroid (2004 MN4) that astronomers originally thought had a 1 in 38 chance of direct impact with the Earth in 2029 is now expected to miss completely. The bad: The 1,000ft-wide asteroid will pass the Earth close enough (a tenth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon) to increase the frequency of the asteroid’s orbit, creating the possibility of further close encounters every five to nine years. The potential collision would cause damage on a regional scale, with an expected impact equivalent to a 1,000-megaton explosion. Experts are proposing an interceptor mission as soon as 2012, when 2004 MN4 will be ten million miles from Earth (not that far as space missions go), to plant a transponder to gather vital data.
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