Image: old-school asteroid vanquishment technology from Atari -- Link. These death rays were very powerful in 1976, but do not work as effectively on contemporary space matter, hence the contest.
Snip from announcement:
Apophis is a near-Earth object (NEO), which will come closer to Earth in 2029 than the orbit of our geostationary satellites. On that pass, the asteroid will be gravitationally perturbed to an unknown orbit, one that that may have the slim possibility of hitting Earth in 2036. Very precise tracking may be needed to determine the probability of such a collision. Such precise tracking may require "tagging" the asteroid, perhaps with a beacon -- a transponder or reflector -- or some other method. Exactly how an asteroid could best be tagged is not yet known, nor is it obvious, which is why The Planetary Society is holding a competition.Link.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.