The NEOShield project is being sponsored by the European Union, and run out of Berlin. The intent of the project is to explore the three best proposed techniques for stopping threatening asteroids: kinetic impactors, gravity tractors, and the explosive blast-deflection.
With an investment of some €4 million by the European Commission and an extra €1.8 million coming from scientific institutions and partners, the German Aerospace Center aims to have a plan for a test mission drafted within three years.
After that, if they can find the extra cash, the mission may be launched by 2020.
Fans of Star Trek of course remember the classic episode The Paradise Syndrome, in which a mysterious obelisk protects a planet from destruction with an energy beam of incredible power.
(The Paradise Syndrome)
SPOCK: This obelisk is one huge deflector mechanism. It is imperative that we get inside immediately. Captain, we do not have much time.
KIRK: I don't know how to get inside.
SPOCK: If we are not able to gain entry and activate the deflector mechanism within the next fifty minutes, this entire planet will be destroyed.
KIRK: The key must be in these symbols. We've got to decipher them.
SPOCK: I already have to some extent, Captain. They are musical notes.
KIRK: You mean entry can be gained by playing certain notes on a musical instrument?
SPOCK: That would be one method. Another would be a series of tonal qualities spoken in their proper sequence.
KIRK: Give me your communicator. Tonal control, consonants and vowels. I must have hit it accidentally when I contacted the ship.
SPOCK: If you could remember your exact words, Captain.
KIRK: (flipping open the communicator) Kirk to Enterprise.
SCOTT: ON COMMUNICATOR- Aye, Captain. (The hatch slides open)
KIRK: Scotty, if the deflector isn't activated within twenty minutes, get out of orbit. Get the Enterprise out of the danger zone. The landing party is expendable. The Enterprise isn't. Kirk out...
IN THE OBELISK CHAMBER - SPOCK: It is similar to deflector panels I've seen, Captain, but far more complicated.
KIRK: Careful. I must have hit something accidentally. A beam caught me and that's when I stopped remembering.
SPOCK: Probably a memory beam. You must have activated it out of sequence.
KIRK: More symbols. Can you read them?
SPOCK: I do have an excellent eye for musical notes, Captain. They would seem to indicate that this series of relays activated in their proper order.
KIRK: Spock, just press the right button.
(Spock presses the middle button of a row of three, and other sections light up. A blue beam shoots out of the top of the obelisk and pushes the asteroid away.)
Asteroid deflectors; as the Great Bird of the Galaxy has told us, every planet needs one.
From Daily Mail; thanks to Moira for spotting this article and references (with my apologies; my tip submission form was spammed with hundreds of meaningless entries last week, and I didn't see some entries).
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/13/2012)