Pain in the Asteroid

Russia says that it is considering sending a spacecraft to knock a large asteroid off of its path and keep it from colliding with Earth.

Deep Impact posterFamous Russian Rocket scientist, Dr. Professor Anatoly Perminov, said the space agency will hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis, and it plans to invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project once it is finalized.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated the chances of it smashing into Earth, on its first fly-by, in 2029 were as high as 1-in-37. Other studies ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) above the planet’s surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

In October, NASA lowered the odds that Apophis could hit Earth in 2036 from a 1-in-45,000 to 1-in-250,000. NASA said that another close encounter in 2068 will involve a 1-in-330,000 chance of impact.

Some scientists have proposed sending a probe to circle around a dangerous asteroid in order to change its trajectory. Others suggested sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter the momentum, or even using nuclear weapons against it.

Perminov said:
“Calculations show that it’s possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision without destroying it (the asteroid) and without detonating any nuclear charges. The threat of collision can be averted.”

“People’s lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people.”

We cannot help but be reminded of the Hollywood action films “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon,” which both featured space missions scrambling to avoid catastrophic collisions. In both movies the space crews used nuclear bombs to prevent collisions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *