Russia mulls asteroid 'shield' plan

March 12, 2013 at 6:35 PM
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MOSCOW, March 12 (UPI) -- Russia will have a plan by year's end for a program to protect itself against objects like the meteor that exploded last month over the Urals, officials said.

"The relevant program will be approved by the end of the year, and we will begin its step-by-step implementation," Civil Defense and Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

The program would include early warning systems and public emergency training courses, he said.

Vladimir Popovkin, head of the Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, had proposed a federal body be put in charge of developing a system for averting the asteroid threat.

Currently, the activities of various government agencies lack coordination and do not have a uniform operating basis, he said.

Roscosmos is trying to identify and classify potentially dangerous space objects, Popovkin told a session of the upper house of the Russian parliament.

This all follows the incident of Feb. 15 when a meteorite entered the Earth's atmosphere undetected by existing space-monitoring systems and exploded, creating a massive sonic boom that blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city of Chelyabinsk, injuring over 1,500 people.

If the meteorite had entered the atmosphere at a steeper trajectory the consequences would have been more serious, Boris Shustov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Astronomy, said.

Researchers in the United Nations' Office for Outer Space Affairs have recommended the formation of an International Asteroid Warning Network to pool the expertise of the world's many existing scientific agencies and organizations to identify and track objects and generate early warnings of potential impacts.

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