HOUSTON - It happened to the dinosaurs and one day it could happen to us. About 65 million years ago, an asteroid pierced through the Earth's atmosphere and slammed to the ground, rendering the largest species in history extinct.
But scientists believe we're not resigned to the same fate because what humans lack in size, we make up for in ingenuity.
"We have the knowledge to figure it out," NASA deputy director of advanced exploration systems Chris Moore said. "And we have the will and the means to deflect asteroids before they hit the Earth and end our civilization."
For the first time, NASA called out to the public looking for ideas that might help prevent a catastrophic impact.
"We didn't restrict it to just NASA people or industrial people," Moore said. "The surprising thing is 40 percent of our responses came from the public."
More than 400 people responded worldwide. Of those, 96 were selected to expound on their ideas at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.
The meeting of the minds also includes exchanging ideas about how NASA should best select and corral the asteroid that will serve as a destination for its long-awaited Orion manned mission.
There is no shortage of ideas.
"There's a whole host of ideas," Moore said. "We've discussed (using) large inflatable bags. We have nets and lassos and tethers and robotic manipulators that can grab it."
NASA officials hope to select Orion's asteroid by December and relocate it to a lunar orbit in 2018. That would be followed by a manned mission in 2023.
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