Feeds

Russia plans asteroid-defence space mission to Apophis

Probably not planning to use it as weapon

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Russia may deploy defensive spacecraft against the Apophis asteroid, which is almost certainly not going to hit the Earth, according to remarks by the head of the country's space agency.

"I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032," said Anatoly Perminov, quoted by AP.

In this Perminov is technically correct. Apophis is set to pass close by the Earth in 2029 - so close that it will be nearer than television satellites in geosynchronous orbit. Collision at that stage has been ruled out, but according the latest NASA analysis there is a remote chance - 1 in 250,000 - that the 27-million-tonne rock might pass through a so-called "keyhole" during the 2029 pass which would alter its course so as to hit us on the next pass, in 2036.

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

One popular strategy for deflecting rogue asteroids is the use of nuclear weapons. Other schemes involve a shove delivered by a spacecraft, probably having only a minuscule effect on a big object like Apophis but enough that it would miss tiny Earth in the vastness of space. Yet other plans would see solar reflctors used to boil matter off from icy/carbonaceous asteroids.

Perminov refused to be drawn on the details of his Apophis scheme, though he did specify that there would be no nuclear explosions. This is probably just as well, as weapons of mass destruction are forbidden in space by international treaty.

Those sceptical of the Russian regime will see the announcements as sinister - after all, an asteroid-nudging spacecraft could just as well direct Apophis to hit Earth - perhaps chosen parts of Earth - as deflect it away. In the event of a strike, the rock would hit with energy equivalent to a 500 megaton nuke barrage.

However, conspiracy theorists can probably relax on this one. Perminov is keen to recruit other space agencies to the project, including NASA and the ESA. Observers have noted that though the effort is highly unlikely to be required in the case of Apophis, it could save us all in the event of another threatening rock coming on the scene. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.