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Russia plans to deploy an asteroid-monitoring system in outer space in the next ten years

November 26, 2013, 18:22 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Aerospace official: asteroid bound for Earth can develop a speed of up to 30 kilometers per second; so far we are powerless in front of space hazards

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MOSCOW, November 26. /ITAR-TASS/. Vitay Lopota, the president of the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation, believes that a monitoring system should be created in outer space to reduce comet and asteroid risks.

Lopota said that an asteroid bound for Earth can develop a speed of up to 30 kilometers per second and cover a distance of 1.5 million kilometers in 24 hours.

“It is very important for us to be able to see an asteroid at least several days before it hits the Earth in order to calculate where exactly it is going to fall and evacuate the population from those areas,” Lopota explained.

Asteroids with a size of up to 10 meters are not dangerous for people; asteroids with a size from 20 to 30 meters can cause an explosion; asteroids nearing a 100 meters in size can cause a regional catastrophe and asteroids with a size ranging from of 1 to 0 kilometres can cause a global disaster.

According to the president of the Energia Corporation, a special monitoring system should be deployed in outer space to protect our planet from comets and asteroids.

“We can deploy a system of round monitoring of objects approaching the Earth in the first stage in the next 10 years,” Lopota went on to say.

“So far we are powerless in front of space hazards,” he emphasized.

Debates on possible space threats have been under way in Russia since February 15, 2013 when a huge meteorite fell down in the Chelyabinsk region in the Urals. The celestial body exploded when it was entering the atmosphere. The blast yield was twenty times stronger than an atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima in 1945.

According to the published reports, the Chelyabisnk meteorite was 15-17 in diameter. It was the biggest celestial body to have fallen on Earth since the fall of the Tunguska meteorite in 1908.

Scientists around the globe agree that it is extremely difficult to detect such a celestial body in advance. For that, Earth telescopes should be directed in the needed direction for a strictly definite period of time.

Foreign space agencies consider a threat of Earth’s collision with other celestial bodies to be serious and real: the United States spends 20 million dollars annually to finance a NASA Near-Earth Object Program compared to 4 million dollars allocated several years ago.

The European Space Agency has decided to open a coordination center in Rome to gather space data from all European observatories. Scientists working at the Rome center will track and monitor minor celestial bodies, which create a potential threat to Earth.

In addition to that, the European Space Agency has started developing a prototype of a new telescope. Its principle of operation will be based on the structure of ocelli of insects. The telescope will have a mirror with 1 meter in diameter and a large look-out angle, which will make it possible to scan the sky regularly. The European Space Agency plans to commission six such telescopes that will operate automatically.

Lidiya Rykhlova, the head of the space astronometry department of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says that Russia does not have any wide-angle top-quality telescopes capable of covering the entire celestial sphere. That is why Russia does not have a service that tracks and monitors natural space objects.

According to Yuri Makarov, the head of the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos), Russian scientists can track almost all objects, including space garbage, in near-Earth orbits. However, they can track only two percent of meteorites and asteroids that enter the atmosphere.

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