Thursday, December 31, 2009

More on Asteroids: I Heard It Through the Grapevine

If you read my post of August 25, you may be pleased to hear that the Russians are considering an attempt to deflect an asteroid from hitting the Earth. Good news, except that NASA estimates that the asteroid in question, Apophis, has a maximum probability of 1 in 250,000 of hitting us between now and 2068. The AP account of this doesn't give much confidence that the head of the Russian space agency knows what the hell he's doing, or indeed is sober:

Without mentioning NASA's conclusions, Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. "I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032."

The head of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program is tactful:

"While Apophis is almost certainly not a problem, I am encouraged that the Russian science community is willing to study the various deflection options that would be available in the event of a future Earth threatening encounter by an asteroid."

The Russian space agency's own website, quoting the AP, seems somewhere between embarrassed and mocking:

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....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.

Can't wait to hear how this turns out. 

No comments:

Post a Comment