Alexander Bagrov: Space threats elimination requires active and coordinated actions

March 5, 2013 6:36 pm

meteorCountries should pay close attention to the development of methods for detection and tracking of celestial bodies as it is impossible to counter space threats “working blindly.” This is the opinion expressed by Alexander Bagrov, Full Doctor of Sciences, leading researcher at the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences (INASAN), in an interview with news agency “PenzaNews.”

“Atmosphere saves the Earth from tiny space debris, as the particles with a mass less than a kilogram are completely burned in it. If the cosmic body has a mass of several tens of kilograms, its unburned part can reach the surface of the planet and then fall as a meteorite, which, however, is a rare event,” he explained.

According to the expert, it is necessary to constantly monitor celestial bodies and their trajectory only if these objects can actually be dangerous to people.

“These are the objects the fall of which could cause regional – within the whole country – or global catastrophe. Objects larger than 140 meters in diameter are considered to be always dangerous, however, even two times smaller cosmic body can cause enormous damage if it falls in a “vulnerable” area. Tunguska meteorite caused a stir in the scientific world and in the minds of the curious but did not cause death because it fell in a sparsely populated Siberia area. If it hit St. Petersburg, the city would have been completely destroyed,” Alexander Bagrov said.

“It is believed that the impact of an object with a diameter of several kilometers would be fatal for the Earth. However, I believe that this is quite mild estimate. Our civilization is very vulnerable in terms of extensive internal communications, the destruction of which will occur even after a half-a-kilometer sized object’s impact. And then it turns out that there is no one to lead rescue operations, no roads, utilities, fuel and electricity. We got used to live, knowing that we are protected by the society and have no idea what to expect when the society gets destroyed,” he added.

This, in his view, confirms the need to predict not only the weather, earthquakes and tsunamis but the space environment.

“But we cannot follow the path of American scientists who spend time and energy searching for asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. These bodies are so far away that you cannot calculate with sufficient accuracy the probability of thier potential impact,” the leading researcher at INASAN said.

He also added that at this stage there are a number of options to prevent asteroid collision with the Earth.

“For instance, it is possible to change the speed of the cosmic body – then it will pass through the point of possible collision when the planet is not in it; or to change the orbit of a dangerous object so that it no longer intersects the Earth’s orbit. Besides, the earlier we find a dangerous object and the more accurately determine its trajectory, the easier it will be to counter it,” Alexander Bagrov said and added that all known methods aimed at combating asteroids require several years.

“I in collaboration with Michael Kislitsky from FSUE “Arsenal” proposed an effective way to counter the most dangerous objects 1–2 months prior the potential impact. Application for the invention is now at Rospatent. We hope it will be possible to organize a full-scale demonstration experiment which would show that it is possible to avert asteroid threat by available means,” he said.

The expert also stressed that space threats do not choose between countries or people.planet Earth

“We are one civilization and cannot go easy on asteroid, which hits Denmark, Nepal or Bolivia and, for example, does not affect Russia. All the countries in the world must unite to counter this threat,” Alexander Bagrov said.

He also added that technical and material contribution of many states in fight against these threats might be small compared with the leading space powers; but whatever the political choices, countries need to work on the early detection and reaction systems.

“When interested, our government could establish appropriate national systems in Russia, making them open to accession by other states. In any case, this would take much less time than development of international agreements by sluggish politicians,” Alexander Bagrov noted.

In his view, space threats should be taken very seriously.

“I do not see any reason to accumulate “reserve funds” with no guarantee that they will be used. Why multiply wealth of the country, if overnight there can be neither the country nor the people?” the expert pondered.

According to him, to address this kind of threat a number of technical problems need to be solved: for example, it is necessary to create a system that identifies threatening asteroids and a space-rocket shield from potential impact.

“Space threat is just like military threat, but it comes from the enemy that cannot be negotiated with or scared with revenge. Our defense should be ready to repel space threats just like it is ready to repel armed attacks,” the Russian expert concluded.

Full text news agency “PenzaNews”: http://penzanews.ru/en/opinion/53129-2013

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