Dr. Edward Lu was a physicist at Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy before being chosen as an astronaut. In 2003 he spent 6 months aboard ISS. Back on Earth, he has been studying the problem of dangerous asteroids. He is part of the B612 Foundation, named for the Little Prince's home. With fellow astronaut Stan Love, he has proposed a "gravity tractor" to deflect an asteroid's orbit.
Last week Edward Lu, astronomer Nick Kaiser and others gave a presentation for us at the University of Hawaii. The system would use the spacecraft's small gravitational field as a tractor beam to gently tug an asteroid. If a tiny change is made early enough, the cumulative shift would turn an Earth encounter into a miss. The nudge might have to be made decades in advance, so it is good to start planning now.
To quote that other movie from 1998, ARMAGEDDON:
"In the Book of Revelations, the Bible speaks of a final day on Earth, when all mankind shall perish, shall cease to exist. This day is known as Armageddon...for the first time in the history of this planet, a species possesses the technology to prevent its own extinction."
Of all life on Earth, the human species is uniquely adapted for spaceflight. Hands with opposable thumbs for building things, capacity to cooperate toward a common goal, the desire to expand one's horizons are all useful traits. Recently I have found that our skin can be adapted for Space. Exploration of Space is an imperative for survival.