In an interview today with the Voice of Russia, Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency, laid claim and plans to begin a project to intercept and avert the course of the asteroid, Apophis, reports Wired and All Headline News. According to the Russians, the asteroid will impact with our planet in or around 2036. The asteroid, first discovered in 2004, has seen the scrutiny of the scientists at NASA, who found in 2007 that based on the information they had gathered at the time:
The future for Apophis on Friday, April 13 of 2029 includes an approach to Earth no closer than 29,470 km (18,300 miles, or 5.6 Earth radii from the center, or 4.6 Earth-radii from the surface) over the mid-Atlantic, appearing to the naked eye as a moderately bright point of light moving rapidly across the sky. Depending on its mechanical nature, it could experience shape or spin-state alteration due to tidal forces caused by Earth’s gravity field.
This is within the distance of Earth’s geosynchronous satellites. However, because Apophis will pass interior to the positions of these satellites at closest approach, in a plane inclined at 40 degrees to the Earth’s equator and passing outside the equatorial geosynchronous zone when crossing the equatorial plane, it does not threaten the satellites in that heavily populated region.
Using criteria developed in this research, new measurements possible in 2013 (if not 2011) will likely confirm that in 2036 Apophis will quietly pass more than 49 million km (30.5 million miles; 0.32 AU) from Earth on Easter Sunday of that year (April 13).
That was back in 2007. In October of 2009, despite the previous reports that Apophis would not pass into optical telescope range until 2011 and into radar measurement until 2013, NASA determined that “…newly available data indicate[s] the probability of an Earth encounter on April 13, 2036, for Apophis has dropped from one-in-45,000 to about four-in-a million.” This doesn’t stop the Russians from being pessimistic, considering Western scientists paltry and unrefined. Because we all know that Russian scientists are spot on with their research.
Regardless, Perminov has insisted that the Russian Federal Space Agency is looking for a non-nuclear option in dealing with the asteroid menace, which is slightly larger than two soccer fields, and has invited other space agencies to join their asteroid-killer project. I doubt that NASA will tag along, considering the position of Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory:
“The refined orbital determination further reinforces that Apophis is an asteroid we can look to as an opportunity for exciting science and not something that should be feared.”
You hear that Russia? Quite hatin’. Asteroids can be your friend.