Russia Will Put the Defense of Earth on Global Security Conference Agenda
April 28, 2012 • 10:25AM

An article in yesterday's issue of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian government daily, provides context for the speech given the day prior (see report) by Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) Deputy Directly Vitali Davydov at a Russian Security Council conference. Wire service reports on Davydov's call for a Russian national program on the threat to Earth from asteroids and comets had suggested that Davydov talked about the need for international cooperation in this area, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta confirms that.

The Moscow conference where Davydov spoke was held to mark the twentieth anniversary of Russia's Security Council, and it was keynoted by Nikolai Patrushev, the current Security Council secretary and former head of the Federal Security Service (FSB). Noting that the anniversary coincides with Vladimir Putin's impending inauguration as President on May 8, Patrushev said that Russia is moving with greater confidence to participate in addressing global and regional problems. Twice, global security conferences initiated by Russia have been attended by over 50 countries, including the United States and China, he said, pointing to forums held in Sochi and Yekaterinburg in recent years. On their agendas were issues such as international terrorism, food security, and cyber-security. Now the Security Council is preparing a third such forum, which will take place in St. Petersburg on June 6-8 of this year.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta continued: "In addition to the traditional international security problems, entirely new threats will be discussed in Petersburg. For example, ones such as counteracting the asteroid danger. This is not a joke and not science fiction. The deputy head of the Federal Space Agency, Vitali Davydov, told the conference yesterday that space junk and the asteroid-comet danger are new challenges to civilization. Davydov noted that scientists have already been able to identify over 8,500 relatively large celestial bodies, mainly asteroids, with orbits passing dangerously close to Earth's.

"Specialists estimate that a collision between Earth and an asteroid several hundred meters in diameter would lead to major regional destruction, while a strike by an asteroid with a diameter greater than 0.8–1 km would cause so-called 'asteroid winter' and the end of civilization. Furthermore, a collision with such a large asteroid would generate seismic waves, which could trigger eruptions of dormant volcanoes, as well as earthquakes. In 2004 the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona discovered an asteroid that will approach Earth at the relatively small distance of around 30 thousand km in 2029. Scientists acknowledge that mankind has very limited abilities to combat asteroids, and that this will require the joint efforts of all nations."