Russian space chief Anatoly Perminov's grim warning over asteroid that could 'kill millions'
The head of Russia's space agency either knows something we don't - or there's something in his Tang.
Anatoly Perminov stoked up some hysteria Wednesday as he sounded the alarm about an asteroid called Apophis that is hurtling in the general direction of Earth.
"Peoples' lives are at stake," Perminov told a Russian news agency.
"We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would ... prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people."
Never mind that NASA has already placed the odds of the asteroid slamming our planet in 2036 at an extremely remote 1-in-250,000.
Perminov said he heard from a scientist that the 850-foot asteroid "will surely collide with the Earth in the 2030s."
While Perminov did not name the scientist, he did come up with a plan for knocking Apophis off its path that seems to have been inspired by Hollywood action films like "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact."
Perminov proposed sending a rocket ship to deflect the asteroid off course. He also intends to enlist the help of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Chinese too.
"Calculations show that it's possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have," he said. "The threat of collision can be averted."
Apophis is no secret to astronomers, who first spotted it in 2004. They estimated then the chances of it smashing into Earth would be as high as 1-in-37 when the asteroid flies by in 2029.
Further studies ruled out the likelihood of Apophis hitting the planet that year but suggested there was an extremely small possibility of a hit when the asteroid returns seven years later.
In July 2008, Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) - with the backing of the House - directed NASA to track Apophis and develop its own plan to protect the planet.
NASA has estimated that if Apophis did hit the Earth, it could cause a huge explosion - or churn up a tsunami - capable of killing millions. But it would probably not end civilization as we know it.
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