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Last Updated: Monday, 4 July, 2005, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Russian sues Nasa for comet upset
By Artyom Liss
BBC News, Moscow

Nasa team
Marina Bay says her life will not be the same, thanks to Nasa's project
Hours after a Nasa probe crashed into Comet Tempel 1, legal reverberations were felt in a Moscow court.

Judges in the tiny courtroom normally deal with matters much more mundane than space exploration.

But Judge Litvinenko opened hearings into a case which could see Nasa pay a local amateur astrologist millions of dollars in damages.

Writer Marina Bay claims that by slamming the probe into the comet, Nasa endangered the future of civilisation.

"Nobody has yet proven that this experiment was safe," says Ms Bay's lawyer Alexander Molokhov.

"This impact could have altered the orbit of the comet, so now there is a chance that the Tempel may well destroy the Earth some day!"

If your phone went down this morning, ask yourself Why? and then get in touch with us
Alexander Molokhov
Marina Bay's lawyer

This claim was brushed aside by Nasa mission engineer Shadan Ardalan.

"The analogy is a mosquito hitting the front of an airliner in flight. The effect is negligible," Mr Ardalan told BBC News.

However, even if the comet stays at a safe distance from Earth, Ms Bay's own life, she thinks, will never be the same again.

An amateur astrologist, she believes that any variation in the orbit or the composition of the Tempel comet will certainly affect her own fate.

So Ms Marina's claims to be experiencing "a moral trauma" - which only a payment of $300m (252m euros; 170m) can put right.

This is roughly what Nasa has spent on the experiment so far.

Volunteers request

Moscow representatives of the American space agency have ignored Monday's court hearing.

But, by Russian law, this will not prevent the judge from continuing with the case.

Marina Bay's legal team remain confident, and they are even looking for volunteers to join in on the claim.

"The impact changed the magnetic properties of the comet, and this could have affected mobile telephony here on Earth. If your phone went down this morning, ask yourself Why? and then get in touch with us," says Mr Molokhov.

So now it is up to the Moscow Presnya court to find an answer to this, truly universal, question.

The final decision is not likely to be announced for at least another month.

See images of the comet's collision

Q&A: Deep Impact comet mission
03 Jul 05 |  Science/Nature
Chase is on for comet spacecraft
28 Apr 05 |  Science/Nature
Comet mission's images are blurry
29 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature
Comet mission set for 2005 launch
15 Dec 04 |  Science/Nature
Nasa to crash probe into comet
27 May 01 |  Sci/Tech

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