During an interview with TASS on June 30, Anatoly Zaitsev, general director of the non-profit partnership Center for Planetary Protection and an honorary member of the Tsiolkovsky Cosmonautics Academy, expressed his concerns about the development of such weapons.
He said: “It is necessary to emphasize that there is an opportunity to test kinetic, laser and even asteroid weapons under the guise of creating tools of protection against dangerous celestial bodies.”
Zaitsev further pointed to the potential incorporation of these weapons into the United States’ space forces, which could be aimed at establishing dominance in space. A Russian expert provided insight into two potential methods of using asteroids as weapons.
According to Zaitsev, the first method involves withholding information about a dangerous celestial body, although this is considered unlikely due to the limited detection rate of such asteroids worldwide. Only about 0.1% of the approximately 2,500 asteroids approaching Earth are discovered each year.
The second way, as the expert explained, is more realistic. It involves deliberately modifying the asteroid’s flight path to cause it to collide with Russian territory.
The CEO of the nonprofit Planetary Protection Center said that in three decades, the United States and other nations have organized twelve expeditions to fourteen asteroids and six comets.
These missions were used to test and develop methods and technologies for controlling the trajectories of these celestial bodies.
For example, NASA successfully demonstrated its ability to modify the trajectory of an asteroid through the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. Launched in 2021, the mission achieved its goal of altering the trajectory of the target asteroid Dimorphos in October 2022.
The expert suggested that while the first method of weaponizing asteroids is less likely due to detection limitations, the second method of altering the trajectory of asteroids for strategic impact is a realistic concern, especially given the history of asteroid exploration missions by the US and its allies.
Meanwhile, Zaitsev also said that Russia is independently engaged in the field of planetary protection without general coordination. The development of a system of protection against the threats of asteroids and comets would not only strengthen Russia’s defense potential, but also contribute to global protection and promote scientific and technological progress.
In addition, the development of monitoring systems for near-Earth space, including the “Milky Way” project, demonstrates Russia’s commitment to strengthening its capabilities in this area. The project includes a network of ground-based telescopes and specialized satellites, with the first satellite scheduled for launch in 2027.
Armament of the Astroids
Many researches and scientific studies have proposed the theoretical possibility of using asteroids as a weapon. Thomas Bania, a professor of astronomy at Boston University, previously said the concept of weaponizing an asteroid is possible. This would involve landing on an asteroid, installing a propulsion system, and redirecting its orbit to target a specific location on Earth.
One potential method of doing this is using a “mass drive,” an electromagnetic accelerator that uses linear motors to propel objects in space without relying on rockets.
The concept of a mass driver was originally developed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill, who designed Mass Driver 1 in 1976 to demonstrate its capabilities.
While several mass driver prototypes have since been constructed, major nations have yet to develop mass drivers on the scale necessary for asteroid weapons. However, this would be a slow weapon, as it would take several months to change the asteroid’s orbit, and it would also take a significant amount of time to travel to Earth.
Bania emphasizes that the defenders will have sufficient warning to launch a counterattack and neutralize the threat posed by the weapon asteroid.
Meanwhile, EurAsian Times sought insights from a former scientist at ISRO, India’s premier space agency. The scientist, who requested anonymity, dismissed the idea of weaponizing astroids as “pure science fiction” and emphasized the significant investment required to carry out such an effort.
In addition, the scientist warned that the desired results may not be achieved, given that large countries such as Russia and China also have the ability to use tactics that can change the trajectory of asteroids.
In short, weaponizing an asteroid involves various elements, including identifying suitable asteroids, skillfully maneuvering these celestial bodies, and pinpointing the intended targets.
These complex tasks would require extensive planning over many years to achieve the desired result. The complexity involved underscores the considerable level of effort, resources and careful preparation that would be required to pull off such a feat.