Scientists call for urgent deployment of anti-asteroid security system

There could be up to 10 million asteroids and meteors in the Solar System, which are 15 meters and more in diameter, and only 10,000 have been detected so far, says Anatoly Zaitsev, the General Director of the Citadel Project at the Planetary Security Center.

There could be up to 10 million asteroids and meteors in the Solar System, which are 15 meters and more in diameter, and only 10,000 have been detected so far, says Anatoly Zaitsev, the General Director of the Citadel Project at the Planetary Security Center.

The first stage in creating an international system for protecting the Earth from unwanted newcomers - the emergency-response stage - could be implemented within five to seven years, provided there is the political will, since we have all the necessary technologies," Zaitsev said during the 45th Siegel Readings on Saturday.

At the first stage, the system will provide protection from small asteroids and comets, he said. It could cost $10-20 billion.

Another speaker, Alexander Portnov, a doctor of geology and mineralogy, put forward a theory whereby there had been life on Mars but it ceased as a result of oxygen loss in the atmosphere of the Red Planet after a huge asteroid fell on the southern part of the planet.

Twenty organizations from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan are taking part in Citadel Project, Zaitsev said. The project involves the creation of a space observation and detection segment, two regional planetary-security centers, as well as reconnaissance and interception services.

The space segment will detect potentially dangerous objects on remote approaches to the Earth and will send to them a spy vehicle to clarify their trajectory. Then it will trigger an interceptor vehicle carrying a nuclear explosive device.

The interceptor is expected to weigh 4 tonnes and deliver a nuclear charge of 2 megatonnes. Before the conflict started in Ukraine, the plan had involved the use of Zenit carrier rockets.

"The simulation conducted in Snezhinsk showed that an asteroid with a 500-meter diameter could be destroyed by a distributed nuclear charge of 10 units, each with a 1-megatonne capacity," Zaitsev said.

He reckons that prospective missile defense weapons could be used for regional protection against asteroids, he said.

By now, the Emergency Situations Ministry has created a system for predicting possible asteroid impact sites, which will allow to warn the public about a potentially dangerous situation well beforehand, Zaitsev said.

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