Russia will consider building a spacecraft to push an asteroid away from a collision course with the Earth.

The Russian space agency will soon call a meeting of scientists and experts to devise ways of preventing Apophis, a massive asteroid, from smashing into our planet, said Roskosmos head Anatoly Perminov.

Discovered in 2004, the 270-metre Apophis will fly within 30,000 km of the Earth in 2029, and has a remote chance of hitting us on subsequent encounters.

“Calculations show that we have enough time to build a special purpose spacecraft that would help prevent the collision,” said Mr. Perminov.

Russian Astronomy Institute head Boris Shustov said latest calculations showed a very low risk of Apophis colliding with Earth, but there were many other asteroids that could pose a threat.

“We have information about no more than 1 per cent of dangerous space objects. Mankind is just waking up to this problem,” said Dr. Shustov.

Russian experts have proposed sending a “space tow” that would gradually deflect a dangerous asteroid by circling around it.

A more fantastic idea being discussed is to place engines on an asteroid to change its orbit.

Such soft deflection options would only be available if the threat of collision is years away, said Dr. Shustov.

If the danger is imminent, man would have to use nuclear weapons to smash the asteroid, which could have dangerous consequences for the Earth.

Mr. Perminov said the Russian space agency would probably invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to participate in the project.

“When people’s lives are at stake it is better to pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to avoid a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people,” said the Roskosmos head.

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