Page last updated at 09:18 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Russia 'plans to stop asteroid'

Anatoly Perminov (AP)
Mr Perminov said Roscosmos' science council would hold a 'closed meeting'

The head of Russia's federal space agency has said it will work to divert an asteroid which will make several passes near the Earth from 2029.

Anatoly Perminov told the Voice of Russia radio service that the agency's science council would hold a closed meeting to discuss the issue.

Any eventual plan is likely to be an international collaboration, he said.

The US space agency said in October that there is a one-in-250,000 chance of Apophis hitting Earth in 2036.

That announcement was a significant reduction in the probability of an impact, based on previous calculations that put the chances at about one-in-45,000. The asteroid is estimated to pass within about 30,000 km of the Earth in 2029.

Mr Perminov, who is the chief of Roscosmos, gave little detail of any plans that the agency has, but was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying that the solution would not entail the use of nuclear weapons.

Other schemes that have been put forth in the past for diverting asteroids from collision courses include spacecraft that nudge the space rocks out of their trajectory through force, or diverting them with "solar sails" that use the wind of particles ejected from the Sun.

"People's lives are at stake," Mr Perminov reportedly told the radio service Golos Rossii (Voice of Russia).

"We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people."



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