Russia May Knock an Approaching Asteroid Away from EarthS

Are we on the path to a major asteroid collision? The Russian Federal Space Agency fears that the approaching asteroid Apophis could spell certain doom. And it has a plan to knock the asteroid off its current course.

In 2004, astronomers identified Apophis, a 270-meter asteroid heading in our direction. Although NASA initially feared that the odds of Apophis striking Earth in 2029 were 1-in-37, they have since calculated that the asteroid will pass no fewer than 29,450 km above Earth's surface. There is an extremely small chance that Apophis could hit us on a later pass — a 1-in-250,000 in 2036 and a 1-in-330,000 in 2068.

However, Anatoly Perminov, director of the Russian Federal Space Agency, has said that Russia is very concerned about the possibility of a collision with Apophis, and is considering a plan to change the asteroid's course. However, he is a bit vague on his reasons for fearing an impact:

"I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032," Perminov said.

"People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people," Perminov said.

The Space Agency is talking about sending a spacecraft to intercept Apophis, although this won't be an Armageddon scenario. The plan isn't to blow up the asteroid, but to physically push it off course to prevent a close encounter with Earth. Perminov says that, once the project is finalized, NASA, the ESA, and the Chinese space agency will be invited to join the mission.

Russia may send spacecraft to knock away asteroid [Mail via reddit]