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To nuke or not: Asteroid plans take shape

Image: Asteroid entering atmosphere
An artist’s conception shows an asteroid entering Earth’s atmosphere. (Credit: NASA)

What should the world do about the potential threat of a catastrophic asteroid collision? This month NASA established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office to manage the issue. Meanwhile, the Russians and the Europeans are talking aboutdiverting nasty space rocks with nuclear weapons.

All this comes as cosmic threats are getting ready to hit prime time, in the form of an NBC comedy titled “You, Me and the Apocalypse.” (The threat in this case is a comet, not an asteroid.)

Former astronaut Ed Lu, CEO of the B612 Foundation, is glad for all the attention. For years, B612 has been trying to raise awareness about the asteroid threat, with mixed success. In a statement posted on Facebook today, Lu noted that NASA’s actions come in response to a highly critical internal report about NASA’s asteroid-hunting effort.

Another indication of a turning tide is contained in last month’s omnibus spending bill, which sets aside $50 million for the effort during fiscal year 2016. That’s 10 times more than NASA was spending in 2010.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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