This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

19 May 2010

Russian Apophis Mission?

From the article...

Russia is developing an unmanned spacecraft designed to explore the asteroid Apophis that, astronomers worry, may several times come dangerously close to the Earth in 2029-2036.

The spacecraft is being built at the Lavochkin plant, Russian academic Lev Zeleny told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday.

If the "space wanderer" hits the Earth, the explosion will be a few times more powerful than that caused by Tunguska blast that shook Siberia in 1908.

The craft that is being built at the Lavochkin plant, located in Khimki just north of Moscow, is not designed to destroy the asteroid or amend its orbit, bur rather, to study the tiny planet "more closely," said Zeleny.

Apophis was discovered in 2004 by the U.S. astronomers. It is expected that the asteroid will approach the Earth at about 30,000 km, that is 12 times as little as the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

In last December the head of Russia's space agency Anatoly Perminov told reporters that Russia was considering sending a spacecraft to the asteroid to knock it off its course and prevent the possible collision.

A last October update on Apophis's orbit by NASA indicated "a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036."

Scientists have long theorized about asteroid deflection strategies. Some have proposed sending a probe to circle around a dangerous asteroid to gradually change its trajectory. Others have suggested sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter its momentum or using nuclear weapons to hit it.

Link: Xinhua Article (Russia to Build Spacecraft to Study Asteroid)

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