Russia to build anti-meteorite shield
Moscow, March 12 : Russia would build a system to protect the Earth from meteors and other space debris, Russian federal space agency Roscosmos said Tuesday.
"Roscosmos has formed a working group with experts from the defence ministry and the Russian Academy of Science to create a unified system of early warning and countering space threats," Xinhua quoted Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin as saying.
The project, titled "Citadel", would cost about $500 million, and could be implemented only with international cooperation, said Anatoly Zaitsev, head of the Center of Planetary Protection, a scientific and research organisation.
According to RIA Novosti, Popovkin said the Russian Academy of Sciences should be made responsible for developing asteroid threat monitoring systems while Roscosmos should be in charge of monitoring space debris.
The foreign ministry should be entrusted with matters of countering space threats at interstate level, he said.
Popovkin warned that in 20 years, the world might no longer be able to deploy geosynchronous satellites in space because all available orbits would be littered with debris due to their constant disintegration.
According to calculations by Roscosmos, the possibility of collisions between working satellites and debris has risen sharply.
The Russian Aerospace Defense Forces was urged by the government to come up with a plan to protect the country from space "guests" after a meteorite strike injured over 1,200 people and damaged homes in Chelyabinsk region Feb 15.
Civil Defence and Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov said the programme will include early warning systems and public emergency training courses.
Roscosmos is currently trying to identify and classify potentially dangerous space objects, Popovkin said at a session of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.
Boris Shustov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Astronomy, said super-powerful telescopes should be used to detect dangerous space objects in good time.
Ground and space-based systems need to be built for this, he said, adding that "regular" telescopes are unable to detect those threats.
In particular, he said, Russia needs to complete construction of a super-wide-angle telescope, the AZT-33, near Lake Baikal, at a cost of 500 million rubles (about $17 million).
Shustov said the "extraterrestrial object" which exploded over Chelyabinsk did not even belong in the class of dangerous objects.
If the Chelyabinsk meteorite had entered the atmosphere at a steeper trajectory, the consequences would have been far worse, he said.
"And if the body had been 50 metres (in diameter), then there would have been no chance," he said, without elaborating.