Russia, Europe to Discuss Asteroid Deflection Options

Russia, Europe to Discuss Asteroid Deflection Options

Officials from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, will meet with European Commission members on July 7 to discuss options for developing a joint anti-asteroid defense program, RIA Novosti reported today. The initiative comes after Anatoly Perminov, head of the agency, expressed interest to lead an international effort to deal with the risk of a near-Earth object (NEO) collision last December.

According to the article the meeting will include the input of scientists and engineers from Roscosmos, as well as experts from the Russian Academy of Sciences and other institutions. Scientists from the Astronomy Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences have reportedly detected a total of 6,690 NEOs as of April, the majority of which measure between 100 and 1,000 meters in diameter. This is part of what Perminov described as growing international awareness on the threat of NEOs. He was quoted as saying that “in recent years, the attention of scientists, technicians, politicians and the military has become increasingly focused on the asteroid and comet hazard, namely the threat of the Earth’s collision with large space bodies.”

A recent report by the U.S. National Research Council, Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies, released last January stressed the need to increase research in identifying and mapping NEOs that could pose a potential threat in order to devise effective mitigation strategies. The main finding of the report is that NASA would be unable to meet the deadline of 2020 to map 90% of NEOs 140 meters or more in diameter as Congress mandated in 2005, because of lack of funding.

In response to the NRC report, the proposed FY2011 NASA budget request substantially increases funding for the Near Earth Object Observations (NEOO) program under the Science Mission Directorate, from approximately $4 million to $16 million. The increase will be used to improve use of current and planned observatory missions, including the WISE spacecraft and the ground-based PAN-STARRS and Arecibo facilities. The funding will “significantly” increase NASA’s efforts “to find and characterize asteroids and comets … which may be destinations and resources for our exploration of the solar system, or could become potential impact hazards to the Earth,” according to the budget document.

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