From space you can determine military rank...
One can determine military rank from space based on shoulder straps
The 61st International Astronautical Congress ended in Prague in early October. Such congresses are organized annually by the International Astronautical Federation with the support of International Academy of Astronautics and International Institute of Space Law. The main theme of the Prague congress was space research and industry. Participants of the event (more than two thousand experts, including directors of world space agencies, representatives of leading aerospace companies and scientific community) once again discussed the increasing urgency of the subject of establishing an international aerospace system for monitoring global phenomena.
What kind of system it is, why it is needed and what are its perspectives, told our reporter Nikolai POROSKOV, member of the Congress in Prague, President of International Association “Znanie”, full member of International Academy of Astronautics and Russian Academy of Astronautics named after K.E. Tsiolkovsky, “Vremya Novostei”. Professor Efim Malitikov, Doctor of Technical Sciences, member of K.E. Tsiolkovsky International Academy of Astronautics and Russian Academy of Astronautics.
Every year about 30 000 people in the world die from earthquakes. Economic damage from seismic cataclysms reaches hundreds of billions of dollars. Natural and man-made disasters together cost the humanity more than a trillion dollars annually. According to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), 1.8 million people have died in the past 30 years from the largest natural disasters alone, and the direct economic loss has been over $1.5 trillion.
In the coming years, according to experts, the damage from natural and man-made disasters in the world will be commensurate with the growth of the total gross domestic product of the planet. The prediction of negative phenomena, mitigation of their consequences and preservation of human lives depend on taking timely measures. This requires consolidation of the states and governments of the world, integration of their joint political, scientific and technical efforts, elevated to the rank of public policy within their countries.
– Is there any mechanism for minimizing the loss of life and property?
– It does not exist yet, but today it is quite clear what it must be. The Khrunichev State Research and Production Center put forward the idea of creating an international aerospace system to monitor global phenomena.
The idea of creating an international aerospace system for monitoring of global phenomena (MAKSM) was put forward by the Khrunichev State Research and Production Center. The cost of creating such a system is two orders of magnitude lower than the amount of annual damage – roughly $10 billion.
The idea of launching IGMASS no later than 2017 is supported by the International Association Znanie, the International Academy of Astronautics and the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after K. E. Tsiolkov. K. E. Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics. These organizations are making efforts to ensure that the idea of MAXM is appreciated by the governments of the leading nations, without whose participation it would not be possible to implement it.
– We always have enough ideas, especially on a planetary scale. Often, however, in such cases, there is no way to implement them.
– Work on the direct creation of the IGMASS has already started – after the approval of the system at the international specialized symposium “Space and Global Security of Mankind” in Limassol (Cyprus) in November 2009. The symposium was held under the auspices of the United Nations and was attended by representatives of more than 30 nations. The symposium was entirely devoted to global monitoring of precursors of man-made disasters, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, landslides, and storms. Such monitoring will not only make it possible to predict them, but also, if necessary, to promptly assess addresses and volumes of humanitarian aid. For example, a tsunami transforms the earth’s surface so that the boundaries of the affected area can be clearly seen from space. And so it is clear where to send the medics, food, and tents.
In the more distant future, humanity will probably learn how to prevent natural disasters, just as it knows how to disperse clouds and shed rain.
– Why couldn’t a global aerospace monitoring system have been created earlier?
– In recent years technical means and technologies have appeared, which provided unprecedented opportunities. For example, earthquake forecast became a reality. A lit match can be seen from space and a military rank can even be defined by shoulder straps. Modern space-based system can register earthquake precursors such as disturbances in the ionosphere, ozone layer and the atmosphere, anomalies of cloud fields, land surface displacement, thermal and gravitational anomalies, changes in groundwater hydrodynamics.
Many countries try to monitor the precursors of cataclysms alone, often under a veil of secrecy. Meanwhile, global monitoring requires global efforts, and no country can cope with it alone. Humanity is becoming increasingly aware of how finite the resources of the planet are and how great the threats hanging over it are. The processes of globalization are forcing humanity to think seriously about its future.
– But let’s return directly to the IGMASS system. What can it do?
– The system is designed for early warning of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, landslides, storms, asteroid danger, man-made disasters. Timely information about an impending disaster will allow to evacuate people from the danger zone. For example, observing the movement of a sensor installed in the body of a glacier makes it possible to calculate the time of the glacier’s descent and get people out of the gorge below.
The group of the actor and film director Sergey Bodrov, who died in the North Caucasus on September 20, 2002 in a collapse of a glacier, could be among us today. An underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 caused a gigantic tsunami, the deadliest natural disaster in modern history. Estimates range from 225,000 to 300,000 deaths. And the delay between the earthquake and the tsunami struck was several hours. With an effective system for predicting
massive loss of life could have been avoided had an effective system for predicting and detecting such events and a warning system been in place.
– What is IGMASS as a technical system?
– It consists of three segments – space, air and ground. Six small spacecraft (SLC) in geostationary orbit are supposed to be placed in the upper tier of the segment. Another three or four satellites are put into sun-synchronous orbits, which is the lower tier. The entire space flotilla observes certain parts of the planet. Small spacecraft are supposed to be built on the Yachta platform developed at the Khrunichev State Space Research and Production Center. Khrunichev State Research and Production Center. There is a proposal to supplement the project with an interplanetary segment in the future – for more effective asteroid hazard forecasting and prevention.
The air segment includes airplanes, helicopters and airships and is created by individual states. Remote sensing data are transmitted to the ground segment – to the national aerospace information receiving stations and regional data collection and processing centers. So-called direct control will also be carried out with the help of sensors installed on the Earth.
– There is a lot of talk about the asteroid danger. I know the opinion of Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin: anti-asteroid systems are expensive, ineffective and then)’ unnecessary.
– To date, some 850 asteroids larger than one kilometer have been discovered, which could cause a catastrophe of planetary scale if they collide with the Earth. Our challenge – in the next 10-15 years to detect up to 90% of asteroids larger than 140 meters in diameter (and there are hundreds of thousands of them), which may cause a regional catastrophe in case of collision with the Earth. The best platform for this segment could be the Moon. The concept of such a lunar station has already been supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and the Harbin Institute of Technology of China.
– How is this array of information supposed to be managed – from satellites, aircraft, or ground sensors?
– All this information, after processing, should be sent to the national crisis management centers. From there, it will go both to the governmental bodies of individual states of the world and to the international crisis management centers. The latter will transmit the data to the UN and can exchange information with the early warning systems that already exist in different countries.
– Consequently, some countries are already concerned about solving the problem of moshgtoring natural disasters?
– Some countries have long been trying to confront global challenges by solving purely national problems. But even for a superpower this is very costly and ineffective. Joint efforts of the world community are required. Only a global approach will allow each country to minimize costs through synergetic effects. Only in Russia the system implementation will allow creating 140-160 thousand jobs demanding high qualifications.
The project of the aerospace system for monitoring of global phenomena even during the crisis will not only help to preserve but also to increase the scientific and engineering potential, promote innovative development of the country and its breakthrough into the high-tech future. Let us add to this the annual savings of 80-100 billion rubles due to the prevention of emergency situations. Not to mention the lives of Russians saved.
– What decisions were made at the Astronautical Congress in Prague?
– On the very first day of the congress, under the chairmanship of Anatoly Perminov, head of the Federal Space Agency, a meeting of the committee for the implementation of the IGMASS project was held. The draft charter of this organization and the work plan for the upcoming year were reviewed. In particular, the new IGMASS Committee was chaired by Mr. Perminov. The committee was legally formalized as a non-governmental organization with international status. This will allow it to begin fully-fledged work.
I would like to note the genuine interest shown in the IGMASS project by the heads of Western space agencies, as well as by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The statement by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the recent UN summit drew particular attention to the fight against natural and man-made disasters. The head of the Russian delegation called for special attention to their prevention.