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Roscosmos Official Calls for New Program Against Asteroid and Comet Threat

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Vitali Davydov, deputy head of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), today became the latest Russian official to promote elements of a Strategic Defense of Earth policy. Speaking at a scientific conference titled "Russia’s National Interests in the Context of Global Security", Davydov proposed creation of a Russian special federal program to neutralize space threats. He said that the Russian Academy of Sciences should coordinate the effort, RIA Novosti reported.

Calling for the development of expanded capabilities against asteroids and comets that potentially present a danger to Earth, Davydov said: "Various means of acting on potentially dangerous space objects should be developed and perfected in space, both those using powerful one-time actions, and those employing weak influence over longer periods of time." According to the Novosti report, Davydov also proposed planning research missions to potentially dangerous asteroids and comets for the purpose of determining, and possibly intervening to change, their trajectories. Recently reported Russian Academy of Sciences recommendations for the Russian space program’s schedule over the next two decades include such a mission to the asteroid Apophis.

Davydov reviewed the various methods of affecting asteroids, currently being studied, such as ones using lasers, ion or electron pulses, and gravitational tractors. Since some of these are "dual use" technologies, he noted that "developing them in individual countries under national projects would probably lead to further tensions and an arms race in space." While Novosti did not provide further quotations from this part of his speech, Davydkov’s statement implies the need for international cooperation in this area.

The conference is timed for the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Russian Security Council.