Moscow: Russian scientists have come up with plans to protect the planet from asteroids heading towards Earth by launching nuclear missiles.
Although the use of nuclear weapons in outer space is prohibited under a 1967 treaty, Russian scientists say that the ban would be lifted if the planet was in genuine danger. “If the asteroid threat becomes a matter of massive destruction or even the very existence of life on the planet, that ban would naturally be lifted,” they said.
The plan would not be to destroy the asteroid but to deflect it off course to a safe distance from Earth.
The strategy was formulated as part of the 2012-15 European Union-funded NEOShield project. Researchers from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said: “Work was distributed among participants from different countries and organisations, and work on deflecting dangerous space objects with nuclear explosions was conducted by Russia.”
NEOShield, which received most of its funding from the EU, brought together researchers from Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Russia and the US. A three-year follow-up programme, NEOShield-2, began last March.
Other proposals developed as part of the project include a “kinetic impactor”, deflecting asteroids by crashing small unmanned spacecraft into them.