The Kremlin is calling on the world’s most powerful countries to urgently develop the technology and weapons systems to destroy asteroids and meteors that threaten Earth.
Almost 1,200 people suffered injuries last week when an untracked lump of space rock exploded over the Urals, with the debris narrowly missing a direct and devastating hit on the industrial city of Chelyabinsk, with a population of 1.13 million.
Hours later the closely-monitored asteroid 2012 DA14 buzzed the planet at a distance of only 17,200 miles, the closest ever known for an object of such size, equivalent to an Olympic swimming pool.
Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin made clear Russia will lead an international drive for such a move.
‘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,’ he said.
‘Humankind must create a system to identify and neutralize objects that pose a danger to the Earth.’
The disaster in the Urals – which led to damage to hundreds of buildings from a ten ton space fireball that had the force of a nuclear bomb – was a wake-up call to the world, which is not ready to cope with the threat, he warned.
‘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.