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    Asteroid protection plan proposed

    By Dr. David Whitehouse

    An unmanned spacecraft should test ways to deflect a threatening asteroid, two astronauts have told the US government.

    Rusty Schweickart and Edward Lu said a mission of this type could be launched to an asteroid in 2015.

    In February, Earth was almost placed on impact alert because of an asteroid then thought to be on an impact course.

    Mr Schweickart told a hearing that "the media and the general public realise that asteroids are of more than passing interest."

    More than nuclear

    Testifying before an investigation into the threat from asteroids to the Earth, Apollo astronaut Russell L Schweickart called for a new mission to develop the technologies needed to protect the Earth.

    "More and more people are coming to know that some few of these asteroids do not silently pass the Earth, but indeed crash in, largely unannounced.