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.