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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 Published at 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK


Sci/Tech

No plans to combat asteroid threat

Could Earth be hit by a giant asteroid in the next century?

The UK Government said on Tuesday that it had no immediate plans to set up a special centre to tackle the threat of asteroids hitting the Earth, despite warnings of an "extremely serious" risk.


Professor Bailey and Lord Tanlaw speaking on the BBC's Today programme
The Science Minister said the government would look at setting up a National Spaceguard Agency following calls in the House of Lords for such a body, but not in the near future.

Lord Sainsbury told the House the government took the potential threat of a collision with an asteroid "very seriously", and that it was an issue where a "common international approach was essential"

But he said that it was not something for which there were any plans at present.

Giant rock

He was responding to a call from crossbencher Lord Tanlaw, who cited the case of a "potentially hazardous" rock, weighing two million tonnes and measuring one kilometre across, that may hit the Earth in 2044.

He told peers at question time that scientists predicted the asteroid, 1999 AN10, would miss the Earth by only 38,000 kilometres in 2027 but could "possibly impact" on a return visit.

Lord Tanlaw said a UK Spaceguard centre should be set up as part of a European Spaceguard programme to monitor so-called Near Earth Objects (NEOs).

He said 1999 AN10 posed a "risk for the next generation" which was a "low probability but a high-consequence risk". Lord Sainsbury said the possibilty of the asteroid hitting Earth was "extremely remote".

The estimated probability of an impact from the asteroid, discovered in January, was one in 500,000, he said.





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