The danger of large asteroids colliding with Earth is always a concern for space agencies around the world, and there are a number of plans on how to prevent this from happening. Russia, however, seems to have plans that involve a more direct approach: blowing up any approaching meteorites using intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Apparently this is the country’s strategy for revenge for the 2013 meteor that exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk, injuring over 1,000 people.
A member of Russia’s Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau spoke to the national news agency TASS, explaining that they want to use modified ICBMs to shoot asteroids measuring 20 to 50 meters in diameter. The motivation for this is the fact that meteors this small sometimes can’t be detected until just a few hours before reaching Earth, as was the case in 2013.
The Russian agency is still seeking permission from its government, and notes that it would need several million dollars to modernize its ICBMs. But if given approval, they want to test their plan in 2036, on an asteroid dubbed Apophis that is expected to come close to Earth.
This strategy doesn’t exactly have the full support of everyone in the space and science community. Henry Melosh, a Purdue University astrophysics professor, has commented that Russia’s plan is “misguided and potentially dangerous,” adding “There are other, safer ways to deflect asteroids with long lead times.”
NASA’s plans, for example, generally involve diverting the asteroids away from their collision course with Earth, instead of outright destroying them.