Eccentric Orbit

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Recent comments by Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia’s space agency, show the high intellectual level on which government science is conducted over there (and maybe here, too, although reports from Washington are not always as revealing as those from Moscow).

On Dec. 30, Perminov announced that Russia is consider- ing sending a spaceship to knock an asteroid, Apophis, out of orbit so that it won’t hit the earth on one of its revolutions about the sun. American scientists, who once raised a hue and cry about a 1 in 37 chance that the 900-foot object would strike our planet in 2029, eventually concluded that there was no chance of a collision that year. NASA now says that there’s about one chance in 300,000 that the thing will collide with earth in 2036 or 2068.

Yet while inviting America to join the search-and-remove mission, Perminov seemed unaware of the American findings. In fact, he seemed unaware of much of anything. As the Associated Press reported, “Perminov said that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet. ‘I don’t remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032,’ Perminov said. ‘people’s lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people.'”

I just hope that if the scientists manage to hit Apophis, they don’t send it toward the earth.

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