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Urals meteorite a 'wake-up call' to major countries to prevent future space attacks

By The Siberian Times reporter
17 February 2013

The city of Chelyabinsk cleared up its broken glass and divers scoured a lake to find a meteorite which hit with the force of a nuclear bomb.

Some 37 adults and three children remained hospitalised with cuts and more serious injuries on Saturday, thousands of buildings were patching up broken windows in temperatures of minus 20C

Almost 1,200 people needed medical help but it was clear this city of 1.1 million people had a narrow escape from more serious carnage. The ten-tonne meteorite exploded close to the city but avoided a direct hit. 

The celestial fireball was first seen in the skies of Kazakhstan before cross over southern Siberia at a speed of 30km a second, exploding in the atmosphere above Chelyabinsk, releasing almost 500 kilotons of energy.

NASA on Saturday estimated that it was far bigger than previously believed - at 17 metres across. 

As the clear up operation was underway, with estimates of $33 million-worth of damage, leading political and academic figures called for international co-operation to prevent such near-misses in future. 

Some 37 adults and three children remained hospitalised with cuts and more serious injuries on Saturday. 

Thousands of buildings were patching up broken windows in temperatures of minus 20C.

Meteorite Siberia


Meteorite Siberia


Meteorite Siberia


Meteorite Siberia

Former Russian government minister Alexander Pochinok called for a joint US, Russian and EU initiative. 'We will clearly have a need to create near-earth stations, with stronger, advanced telescopes', he said

Divers made little headway searching for a lump of space rock believed to have plunged into Lake Chebarkul.  The mud and silt prevented a comprehensive search. NASA scientists estimated that the amount of energy released in the atmosphere Friday was about 30 times greater than the force of the nuclear bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II.

'We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,' said Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Programme Office.

There were calls to learn the lessons from the lethal space rock, which had not been spotted by monitoring organisations or governments. 

'Instead of fighting on Earth, people should be creating a joint system of asteroid defence,' urged Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian foreign affairs parliamentary committee. 

The US, Russia and China to join forces to create an Anti-Asteroid Defence System, warning this was far more urgent that the American priority of a European-based star wars defence system.

Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin stressed Russia will lead an international drive for such a move. 'Humankind must create a system to identify and neutralize objects that pose a danger to the Earth,' he said.  

'I have already spoken of the need for an international initiative aimed at creating an early warning system that would also prevent extraterrestrial objects from coming dangerously close to the Earth.' 

Currently major countries were not ready to cope with natural strikes from space, he said. 

'Russia and other major countries do have a system of space monitoring and control, but it is mainly geared towards monitoring instances when spacecraft may come dangerously close to space junk', he said. 

The key task was 'not waiting for new incidents to happen but handling problems in advance'.

He called on international players to pull their efforts together instead of "piling up military stuff in space, aimed only at lowering our planet's defences". 

Meteorite Siberia


Meteorite Siberia

The celestial fireball was first seen in the skies of Kazakhstan before cross over southern Siberia at a speed of 30km a second, exploding in the atmosphere above Chelyabinsk, releasing almost 500 kilotons of energy

Rogozin expressed the hope this latest incident would make "officials think of more important issues and look beyond the space horizon".

There are some 1,300 space rocks on NASA's list of "potentially hazardous asteroids" - yet many like the one that struck Chelyabinsk were not tracked in advance. The US-based  B612 Foundation,  which includes NASA veterans, said Friday's close encounters amount to a wake-up call.  

'Of the million asteroids as large as or larger than 2012 DA14, we have only tracked less than 10,000', said the organisation. 

Former Russian government minister Alexander Pochinok called for a joint US, Russian and EU initiative. 

'We will clearly have a need to create near-earth stations, with stronger, advanced telescopes', he said. 

'Perhaps the calculations might show us that we can even bring nuclear weapons into orbit. It is impossible to envisage it now. It is a matter of calculations, we need to figure out what needs to be done to detect such meteorites, asteroids, to forecast them coming, to change their trajectory, to destroy them. These are tasks for physics and engineering'.

Leading Russian academic Andrei Kokoshin stressed: 'It is high time to create a common international centre for monitoring and responding to natural threats from space.

'The UN should create a special committee within its structure to coordinate efforts."

However, former Russian presidential election candidate  Vladimir Zhirinovsky claimed the meteorite was in fact a missile test by the US 'war-mongers'.

'It's not meteors falling. It's a new weapon being tested by the Americans,' he claimed. 

Comments (1)

Great story about a hair-raising event. Yes, we need joint government cooperation before something hits us that causes irreparable damage to life on Earth. I am amused by the remark the event was simply the U.S. testing another warfare system. The Republican Party here are the worst of the war mongers. It's good they lost the most recent election --- but the article goes to show how much our reputation as been damaged in the world. It is always interesting to read articles in foreign newspapers to see how we are perceived in the world.
Lynn, Arizona, USA
21/02/2013 11:59
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