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Russian party leader handled meteorite irresponsibly

Staff Columnist

Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08

Last week, a meteorite exploded over the Russian Urals, injuring over 1,000 people and causing about $33 million (1 billion rubles) of damage. Within 24 hours of that collision, an unrelated asteroid passed closer to Earth than most of our commercial satellites. Of course, during any close call or tragedy, there are those who make wild claims and theories, but it was surprising that one of the wildest claims came from the leader of the Russian Liberal-Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The meteor was, in his opinion, a new weapon being tested by the United States. His evidence came when he claimed that “John Kerry tried to warn the Russian foreign minister on Monday about the upcoming provocative tests that would concern Russia, but [Foreign Minister] Lavrov was away.”

Now, there are reasons to be worried about this meteor in particular; mainly that the area it exploded over is famous for its nuclear power plant and toxic waste storage. Others are worried that the meteor exploded during midair, rather than on impact with the earth. With that being said, however, there is no other reason to believe that this was some kind of weapon. For one thing, there are people who have collected pieces of the meteor and scientists who are working to find it in the lake it crashed into after erupting mid-air. The meteor was also caught on hundreds of Russian car-mounted cameras, clearly showing it from many angles. Because of all of this, there should be no discussion as to what this meteor actually was. Instead, ways of preventing and protecting from further impacts must be found.

It isn’t unusual to hear conspiracy theories about even the most common of events, but for one of the leaders of a Russian political party to come forward with a theory like this is ridiculous. Now is not the time to be content with pointing fingers and placing blame, as many are willing to do. While the damage was severe, it could have been worse, especially if the asteroid had hit along with the meteor, and that is what Russia, and the rest of the world, should be focused on. There are, thankfully, many scientists and politicians concerned with this.

Many researchers are looking for new ways to detect these meteorites and prevent their impact with the earth, but without much success thus far. The asteroid that almost hit us, named 2012 AD14, was discovered by accident by a group of amateur astronomers, so finding them has been hit or miss. Hopefully, with this recent collision, more effort will be put in to finding new ways of asteroid and meteor detection.

As far as prevention, the only thing that Russian emergency services were able to do was send out a mass text warning about the meteor, but this was only partially successful. First of all, it served only as a warning; the appearance of the meteor offered little to no time to evacuate. Secondly, there were several citizens who did not receive the message, claiming that the meteor had either interfered with their reception, or that their phones had been shut down due to some effect of the meteor.

Possibly the worst thing about party leader Zhirinovsky’s claims about a new U.S. weapon is that this meteor collision could present something for both superpowers to collaborate on. Rather than guarding our backs and expecting a knife, we can clearly see a problem that needs to be dealt with and have been given the option to work together. The last time a major meteor struck Russia was in 1908, and the force of that utterly dwarfed this most recent one. At that time, there was nothing that could be done to prevent it, but since then we have created orbiting satellites, sent men to the moon and are working on an international space station. It is the duty of the U.S. and Russia to undertake this project now, when the threat of meteor and asteroid collision has reared its head for the first time since the space race. This could not only build a lasting safety for the world, but a lasting peace for nations that have been at odds for the better part of a century. It is men like Zhirinovsky whose suspicions and fear mongering would threaten the safety of everyone by casting doubt on people who could be allies, and it is our duty and that of Russia’s citizenry to look past that. We can only hope that those in power on either side will try to find solutions, rather than allowing themselves to be bogged down in politics.

 

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