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Russian warns asteroid’s path will be too close

By The Associated Press Modified: December 31, 2009 at 4:25 am •  Published: December 31, 2009
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MOSCOW — Russia’s space agency chief said Wednesday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of Earth impact, even though American scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.

Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project.

When the 885-foot asteroid was discovered in 2004, astronomers said its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.

Further studies have ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles from Earth’s surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

Don Yeomans, who heads NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, said better calculations of Apophis’ path in several years "will almost certainly remove any possibility of an Earth collision” in 2036.