Russia Plans to Save Mother Earth

Russia's space chief said Wednesday his agency will consider sending a spacecraft to a large asteroid to knock it off its path and prevent a possible collision with Earth.

Anatoly Perminov said the space agency will hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis, telling Golos Rossii radio that it would invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project once it is finalized.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated the chances of it smashing into Earth in its first flyby in 2029 were as high as 1-in-37.

Further studies ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) above Earth's surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

Excellent news!  Here is my earlier post, Asteroid Deflection as a Public Good.


It would seem that, in a Marginal sense, the greatest payoff for this Act of Deflection would be when the asteroid's return-
orbit comes closest to impact probability ... at least it's when you'd get a maximum number of folk willing to argue its being
a true Public Good (the expense of deflection that is). And imagine the excitement to boot - would beat any and all TV ratings
for a Super Bowl or World Series (a real Life-Ender that!)
Cheers, Tom

It's interesting that Russia would be taking the lead here -- perhaps due to being the largest country by area? Maybe the public good is most internalized for countries with large areas or long coastlines.

Anatoly Perminov said the space agency will hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis, telling Golos Rossii radio that it would invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project once it is finalized.

Hmm that sounds strangely familiar. If a joint Russian/US mission gets out there and discovers thousands of black obelisks on the asteroid, that will be freaky.

(or ought we to be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing)

Naw. Putin is everyone's best buddie, just that friendly older guy who lives down the street and always smiling, although no one knows what he does to be able to afford all the expensive cars, the big house, etc.

Oh, and a country doing everything it can to remain a "world power" as it slips from being a country into a criminal enterprise.

Naw, not that Russia.

The asteroid is (relatively) very small, and so outside of some climatic impact the actual impact damage is very dependent on where the asteroid hits. If it hits the Sahara, the death toll might be dozens or hundreds, but if it hits Mexico City the death toll would probably be tens of millions. Then again, I would think our knowledge of physics would be sufficient that at the very least a week before impact, we could calculate approximately where it would hit and have everyone move a few hundred miles away.

My primary concern would be the impact on the climate and particularly the impact on harvests in subsequent years. If this is a non-issue, I'd agree with Anon that deflecting this particular asteroid is probably heavy on costs relative to benefits.

There's also the matter of how Russia plans this deflection, assuming this is a serious plot and not just the space agency spouting off. Perminov did state they were not going to use nukes, which would be in violation of international law.

There is also the risk that Russia's activities would increase the odds of an asteroid hitting earth -- or decrease the odds of it hitting Russia and increasing the odds it will hit elsewhere. No state is going to pony up the costs of asteroid deflection on its own without some sort of ulterior motive, so I doubt any other states are going to be too pleased by Russia's act of "generosity."

I'm impressed by the speed with which asteroid denialists managed to muster a good case for doing nothing.

For all of you students of Russia, here’s the most important bit of knowledge you need before anything else -

Frackin' Commies.

"Properly used, this could be a media coup."

It's a great way to show that Russia is a superpower--it worked for superman, anyway.
It's similar to the way kings and bishops used to give alms to the poor and eliminate bandits: part of a system to demonstrate authority. I can imagine them not doing anything until people say "oh great and mighty Russia, leader of the free world and protector of Earth, please save us!"

Of course, the leaders of the US would rather die burning than _ever_ say that.

You are right CapitalistImperialistPig, claiming we shouldn't spend incredible sums (that are needed elsewhere for real needs) to address an infitesimal risk is just like those nutty "denialists."

Only a strong authoritarian regime can do the right thing. But, maybe in his press conference the head of the space agency might actually know some details next time, like what year the thing might hit if we are to believe they will actually spend the resources with anything approaching a decent return.

Well, maybe we'll be able to learn from their failures.

By analogy, in the film Sunshine, half the world's fissile material was used in a mission to restart the sun. The mission failed. Was that mission a public good? Not if it used up too much resources to help a second mission succeed.

Also, the problem with public goods is underprovision. If Russia is doing this unilaterally, that is evidence this is NOT a public good. And Dick King nails it. It is beneficial to Russia. So, it is more of a public good to Russians. What may be a public good is research that benefits all future strike risks, but not necessarily actual missions against low-risks that benefit certain regions over others.

My bringing up the dino-wipeout was to dispel the seriousness of that total-square-miles assumption of "more of a public good to Russians" - which would therefore make Canada second in interest for it, even ... but there is no (as in, ought not to be) varying degrees of interest here, since everyone would be affected fully by such a cataclysm. Since the largest still-sleeping, above-ground super volcano - Yellowstone National Park - is in *our* domain - does it make it more of an interest for us to study how to minimize its post-explosion affects on the Earth's climate, life and environment?
Cheers, TomG

This thread of comments is like when someone says, "You know what big feet mean!" And everyone replies "Big socks! :-P"

Comments for this post are closed