2010-01-18

Russia mulls rescuing Earth from possible asteroid collision

Russia is considering sending a spacecraft to a large asteroid to knock it off its course and prevent a possible collision with Earth, the head of Russia's space agency said Wednesday.

"A scientist recently told me he has calculated that it (Apophis) will surely collide with Earth in the 2030s," Anatoly Perminov told the Voice of Russia radio.

A number of proposals to deflect the 270-meter asteroid's trajectory have been brought up, he said.

"Calculations show that it is possible to create a spacecraft within the said time, which would help avoid this impact without destroying it and without detonating any nuclear charges," he said.

Perminov said experts from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, would soon hold a closed-door session to discuss ways to prevent the possible disaster.

Experts from Europe, the United States, China and other countries might be invited to join the planned project once it is finalized, he said.

Apophis, which was discovered in 2004, was forecast to pass by Earth several times at a dangerous distance from 2029 to 2036. However, an October update on its orbit by NASA indicated "a significantly reduced likelihood of a hazardous encounter with Earth in 2036."

Scientists have long theorized about asteroid deflection strategies. Some have proposed sending a probe to circle around a dangerous asteroid to gradually change its trajectory. Others have suggested sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter its momentum or using nuclear weapons to hit it.


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Russia is considering sending a spacecraft to a large asteroid to knock it off its course and prevent a possible collision with Earth, the head of Russia's space agency said Wednesday.

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