Thursday, December 31, 2009

Russia to Attempt Deflection of Near-Earth Object Threat Apophis

In 2004, an asteroid called Apophis was discovered. After analyzing it's path across the solar system, astronomers established that it has a 1 in 37 chance of impacting Earth in 2029. With more detailed studies, the chances were dropped even if the asteroid will come to 29,450 kilometers near Earth. In 2036, it will again buzz by with an estimated to 1 in 250,000 chance of hitting. It seems that Apophis has a slim chance of hitting our planet. But in spite of the latest figures, the Russian Federal Space Agency is planning an unmanned mission to the asteroid to deflect it and lessen it's chances of hitting Earth even more.

According to the space agency's chief Anatoly Perminov, NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese Space Agency, and other like agencies around the world are likely to be invited to participate in the project. Don Yeomans, head of the NASA Near-Earth Object Program, says that "While Apophis is almost certainly not a problem, I am encouraged that the Russian science community is willing to study the various deflection options that would be available in the event of a future Earth threatening encounter by an asteroid."

Perminov said the mission will not require the use of a nuclear explosion, like what is depicted in movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact. He only said that calculations show that it's possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time left, which would help avoid the collision. While Perminov did not give specifics as to how Apophis will be deflected, he said it will have to be worked out.

Apophis is the name of an ancient Egyptian demon. Apophis, or Apep (left) in Egyptian, is the embodiment of darkness, dissolution, and non-being. He is the nemesis of the Sun god Ra. He is depicted as a snake that swallows beings into non-existence. He is supposed to have existed before creation and will continue to exist performing acts of malevolence.

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