- Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin called for international early warning system
- Just 10,000 out of one million asteroids bigger than 2012 DA14 were tracked
The Kremlin is calling on the world’s most powerful countries to urgently develop the technology and weapons systems to destroy asteroids and meteors that threaten Earth.
Almost 1,200 people suffered injuries last week when an untracked lump of space rock exploded over the Urals, with the debris narrowly missing a direct and devastating hit on the industrial city of Chelyabinsk, with a population of 1.13 million.
Hours later the closely-monitored asteroid 2012 DA14 buzzed the planet at a distance of only 17,200 miles, the closest ever known for an object of such size, equivalent to an Olympic swimming pool.
‘Instead of fighting on Earth, people should be creating a joint system of asteroid defence,’ demanded Alexei Pushkov, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and chairman of the Russian foreign affairs parliamentary committee.
He urged the US, Russia and China to join forces to create an Anti-Asteroid Defence System, warning this was far more urgent that the American priority of a European-based star wars defence system aimed at deterring attacks from rogue states.
Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin made clear Russia will lead an international drive for such a move.
‘I have already spoken of the need for an international initiative aimed at creating an early warning system that would also prevent extraterrestrial objects from coming dangerously close to the Earth,’ he said.
‘Humankind must create a system to identify and neutralize objects that pose a danger to the Earth.’
The disaster in the Urals – which led to damage to hundreds of buildings from a ten ton space fireball that had the force of a nuclear bomb – was a wake-up call to the world, which is not ready to cope with the threat, he warned.
‘Russia and other major countries do have a system of space monitoring and control, but it is mainly geared towards monitoring instances when spacecraft may come dangerously close to space junk,’ he said.
The key task was ‘not waiting for new incidents to happen but handling problems in advance’.
He called on international players to pull their efforts together instead of ‘piling up military stuff in space, aimed only at lowering our planet’s defences’.
Rogozin expressed the hope this latest incident would make ‘officials think of more important issues and look beyond the space horizon’.
There are some 1,300 space rocks on NASA’s list of ‘potentially hazardous asteroids’ – yet many like the one that struck Chelyabinsk were not tracked in advance.
The US-based B612 Foundation, which includes NASA veterans, said Friday’s close encounters amount to a wake-up call.
‘Of the million asteroids as large as or larger than 2012 DA14, we have only tracked less than 10,000,’ said the organisation.
Divers were yesterday scouring frozen Lake Chebarkul for remnants of the meteorite that struck on Friday with two monumental explosions, as 20,000 emergency workers cleared up the damage from broken glass, collapsed roofs and structural damage to buildings.
Former Kremlin minister Alexander Pochinok called for a joint US, Russian and EU initiative.
‘We will clearly have a need to create near-earth stations, with stronger, advanced telescopes,’ he said.
‘Perhaps the calculations might show us that we can even bring nuclear weapons into orbit. It is impossible to envisage it now. It is a matter of calculations, we need to figure out what needs to be done to detect such meteorites, asteroids, to forecast them coming, to change their trajectory, to destroy them. These are tasks for physics and engineering.’
Leading scientist Andrei Kokoshin stressed: ‘It is high time to create a common international centre for monitoring and responding to natural threats from space.
‘The UN should create a special committee within its structure to coordinate efforts.’