April 13, 2029 a 390-meter wide asteroid Apophis-9942 will approach the Earth at a dangerous distance of 30-40,000 kilometers. There are many ideas as concerning deflection of a possible attack from space. However, at a recent conference of experts on near-Earth objects (NEOs) in London, scientists said there was little time left for decision-making.
Senior research assistant at Russia’s Central Astronomy Observatory in Pulkovo Sergey Smirnov says that a space probe must be launched to meet the asteroid. The vehicle will fix a simple radio transmitter on the asteroid to determine its orbit more precisely, the expert explains.
Sergey Smirnov also says that Apophis-99942 will approach the Earth twice, April 13, 2029, and according to various estimates either in 2035 or in 2036. After that, the distance between the asteroid and the Earth will reduce by another 10-15,000 kilometers. And the expert emphasizes that Apophis ‘is the biggest space threat for the planet registered over the past 200 years’.
Head of the Planetary Defense Center Anatoly Zaitsev believes that ‘a Citadel planetary protection system can be created within 5-7 years if sufficiently financed’. He said at the 5th International Aerospace Congress that the international community needs to provide $2-3 billion to secure its safety.
After detection of the dangerous space object from the surface smaller reconnaissance vehicles are supposed to be launched to define the asteroid’s trajectory. Targeting provided by these vehicles will be used for operation of space interceptors equipped with nuclear explosive assemblies. Zaitsev says that these interceptors are meant to repel dangerous astronomic objects and may be even destroy them.
In Russia, the Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering will be the key developer of a system for protection of the Earth from asteroids. At that, Deputy Head of the Roskosmos federal space agency Vitaly Davydov says it is rather early to speak about making such a system. It is for sure that in the nearest future an extensive research work will be carried out on the issue, the expert adds.
In Egyptian mythology, Apophis was the ancient spirit of evil and destruction, a demon that was determined to plunge the world into eternal darkness. Astronomers say it is a fitting name for the asteroid as NASA supposes that when hitting this planet it will release more than 100,000 times the energy released in the nuclear blast over Hiroshima. American researchers have already modeled consequences of a probable collision between Apophis and the Earth. They state that in case the asteroid will drop one thousand kilometers off the US eastern coast, the eastern territory will be hit with 17-meter waves, ITAR-TASS reports.
Translated by Maria Gousseva