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Russian Response To Possible Asteroid Impact

According to Russian Colonel General Vladimir Popovkin, commander of the Russian Space Force, Russia's national satellite cluster does not have a spacecraft able to prevent an asteroid strike. According to Popovkin, it would be inexpedient to spend the money needed to neutralize the threat.

The Russian government has been active in studying the problem for the last few years. Russia established the Space Shield Foundation involving scientists from the Snezhinsk nuclear center and the Makeev State Rocket Center. The 3-year-old Planetary Defense Center is made up of the defense-industry facilities, aerospace enterprises, as well as academic and sectoral research.

NASA's Spaceguard Survey, established in 1998, adopted the objective of locating 90% of the ojects larger than one kilometer in diameter before the end of 2008. One object in particular, Asteroid 99942 Apophis, will be naked-eye-visible on April 13, 2029. This object is approximately 1,000 feet in diameter; a collision in a populated area could kill millions of people. The B612 Foundation, chaired by former astronaut Russell Schweickart, requested that NASA respond formally to the problem, possibly by putting a transponder on the object to facilitate tracking. NASA's Mary Cleave provided the following response on October 12, 2005:

“The key conclusion to be taken from this analysis,” Cleave explained in the letter, “is that aggressive (i.e., more expensive) action can reasonably be delayed until after the 2013 observing opportunity. For Apophis, the 16 years available after 2013 are sufficient to recognize and respond to any hazard that still exists after that time.”

Cleave noted in the letter that while Apophis “is an object whose motion we will continue to monitor closely in the coming years, we conclude a space mission to this object based solely on any perceived collision hazard is not warranted at this time.”
(From Asteroid Apophis: Dealing with Earth's Future Troublemaker)

Ground-based tracking has a 99.8% chance of fully resolving the possibility of impact.

Deflection or destruction of an oncoming meteor is still in the realm of science fiction; however, a variety of initiatives and studies have been proposed. Read about the proposal to move asteroids and the MADMEN robot swarm. Science fiction fans recall what is (as far as I know) the first really detailed story about a strike; Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is still a great read. The novel details the discovery of a new comet, and the events leading up to a very close approach to Earth. Very close.

Read more about Russian response to asteroid threats or the Apophis asteroid.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/23/2006)

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