Asteroid could hit Mars next month: NASA

LOS ANGELES, Dec 21, 2007 (AFP) – An asteroid hurtling towards Mars has a one in 75 chance of chance of scoring a direct hit on the red planet next month, NASA experts said in a statement Friday. “Normally, we’re rooting against the asteroid (if it is threatening Earth),” Chesley said. “This time we’re rooting for the asteroid to hit.”

The US space agency’s Near Earth Object
Program (NEOP) revealed that the asteroid’s exact course was difficult to predict, but said it could slam into Mars on January 30, leaving a crater measuring an estimated 1 kilometer across.

If the asteroid, which has been named 2007 WD5, missed Mars as expected it could return to swing past Earth years or decades later, but there was no indication of a threat to the planet, scientists said.

A collision with Mars would be likely to send an enormous dust cloud into the planet’s atmosphere.

The exact path of the asteroid, which was discovered in November by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona, was becoming increasingly difficult to observe because it was receding from the Earth, scientists said.

The asteroid, believed to measure around 50 meters (160 feet) across, had already passed