Russia's Space Program Has Declared War On Menacing Asteroids
October 23, 2013

Russia’s Space Program Has Declared War On Menacing Asteroids

[ Watch the Video: Russia Declares War On Asteroids ]

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While some of us may have stopped battling asteroids after putting our Ataris away in the 1980s, the Russian Space Agency appears to be ready to engage in just such a conflict – announcing a few days ago that it would partner with the country’s national academy of sciences over a project to neutralize deadly asteroids that may threaten the Earth.

Oleg Ostapenko, head of Russia’s Roscosmos (RKA) space agency, told reporters that meetings had been set up with the scientific academy to talk about the project.

“It’s an interesting topic,” he told Russian media.

The space agency leader said spotting and combating asteroid threats is a multifaceted task, which may also require collaboration with Russian military agencies. The potential problem “can be solved only within the framework of all our country’s possibilities,” Ostapenko said.

The announcement comes after last week’s discovery of a 1,350-foot asteroid by Ukrainian astronomers that some experts estimate could impact Earth in 2032. Those initial estimates peg the chance of the asteroid hitting Earth on August 26, 2032 at 1 in 63,000. Astronomers said they will be able to better evaluate the impact risk in 2028.

Ostapenko said RKA would work on a competent way to handle the asteroid worry.

“We could formulate an objective of this kind, involving asteroids,” he said. “But first we need to draw up an assessment plan to make clear what we can do and how we can achieve it. We are already working with the Russian Academy of Sciences on this."

While the space agency had already set a date for meetings with the science academy, talks were now going to include drafting a plan on how to mitigate asteroid threats, Ostapenko said.

"It can be solved only by exploiting the full capacity of our country," he added.

Scoring a 1-out-of-10 rating on the Torino Scale, which estimates impact hazards, the newly discovered 2013 TV135 asteroid was first seen on a series of images taken on October 12 by astronomers at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Ukraine. It is currently in an orbit that travels three-quarters of the way out to Jupiter’s orbit, and then back towards Earth's orbit.

The asteroid's existence was later confirmed by two Russian observatories in Buryatia, and other Italian, British and Spanish facilities. It is expected to come closest to Earth on August 26, 2032.

Russia's deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin has suggested forming a worldwide anti-asteroid shield under the UN to reduce any impact probabilities, adding that none of the space agencies around the world have the technology to protect us from harm.

The recent Russian announcement also comes after a meteor exploded over the country’s city of Chelyabinsk in February, shattering windows and shocking residents. In a salvage operation conducted last week, Russians were able to dredge up a large hunk of the bus-sized meteor from the bottom of Chebarkul Lake, about 37 miles west of Chelyabinsk. The five-foot-long space rock broke a scale used to weigh it, just after hitting the 1,255-pound mark.