From AIAA news digest:
Russian Call For Asteroid Mission At Odds With NASA Statistics.
The AP (12/31, Isachenkov), in continuing coverage, reports, "Russia's space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of earth impact, even though U.S. scientists say such a scenario is unlikely." Anatoly Perminov of Roscosmos said the agency would be meeting to discuss a mission to deflect Apophis from Earth, even though NASA recently lowered the odds of an impact in 2036 to one chance in 250,000. Perminov also stated Russia "might eventually invite" other space agencies to help with the effort. Don Yeomans, head of NASA's Near-Earth Object (NEO) Program, said improved calculations would "almost certainly remove" a chance of a hit, although he said he was "encouraged that the Russian science community is willing to study the various deflection options." Boris Shustov, the director of the Institute of Astronomy under the Russian Academy of Sciences, "hailed" Perminov's announcement "as a signal that officials had come to recognize the danger posed by asteroids."
The New York Times (12/31, A6, Barry) cites Apollo astronaut Russell Schweickart, chairman of the B612 Foundation which "promotes" such efforts. Schweickart also "hailed much of the proposal and said Mr. Perminov was the most influential official ever to articulate a coordinated deflection plan. But he objected to using Apophis to test new deflection methods, saying there was more risk if something went wrong." The USA Today (12/30, Stanglin) "On Demand" blog noted, Russia "is particularly sensitive to the threat from outer space because of a meteorite that struck a remote region of Siberia in 1908."
NBC News (12/31) reports on its website that "space analyst James Oberg agreed that the asteroid impact threat merited more international attention, but he worried that the Russian statements were 'way overblown' and might be counterproductive." Even though Oberg said such an endeavor "must be undertaken in a world consensus mode," he thought Russia "really has nothing to contribute to such an effort aside from cheap boosters - and all of them too small for any serious asteroid deflection effort."
According to Space.com (12/30, Malik), an attempt to deflect Apophis "could actually make matters worse, experts say." Paul Chodas, a member of the NEO Program office, said, "You have the potential of increasing the impact probability with failures in the mission." However, Russian officials "apparently consider Apophis a significant threat to life on Earth despite the low odds of an impact." Meanwhile, Voice of America (12/30, Babb) reports Chodas "praised Russia for suggesting international collaboration on how to avoid such a collision." However, Chodas "says that other asteroids, including those that have not yet been discovered, could pose more of a risk and call for more research."
AFP (12/30), UK's Daily Telegraph (12/31), Canada's Toronto Star (12/31, Kelly), UK's The Guardian (12/31, Adam), and the Wired (12/30, Hodge) "Danger Room" blog also covered the story.
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