Earth could be in peril from a large asteroid and a spacecraft may be needed to knock it off its path, the head of Russia's space agency claimed today.
Anatoly Perminov said the space agency will soon hold a meeting to assess a mission to Apophis, in a bid to stave off the end of the world.
He told Golos Rossii radio that it would invite Nasa, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency and others to join the project once it is finalised.
The news may come as something of a surprise to the U.S space agency, who down-scaled the threat of the 885ft rock hitting Earth in 2029 from one in 37 to virtually non existent.
Nasa predicts the asteroid will peacefully pass us by, coming no nearer than 18,000miles away.
There is a tiny possibility that Apophis could hit Earth in 2035 however, although again the odds of this happening have been lowered from 1 in 45,000 to 1 in 250,000.
Be prepared: Russia's Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov thinks a spacecraft may be needed to knock a large asteroid off its path.
However, Mr Perminov insists the asteroid is a potential menace. He was vague about the evidence of a possible hit but said he had heard from a scientists that the asteroid is getting closer.
'I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it could hit the Earth by 2032,' he said.
'People's lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people,' Perminov said.
Scientists have long theorised about asteroid deflection strategies.
Some have proposed sending a probe to circle around a dangerous asteroid to gradually change its trajectory. Others suggested sending a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter its momentum, or using nuclear weapons to hit it.
Mr Perminov wouldn't disclose any details of the project, saying they still need to be worked out. But he said the mission wouldn't require any nuclear explosions.
Hollywood action films "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," have featured space missions scrambling to avoid catastrophic collisions. In both movies space crews use nuclear bombs in an attempt to prevent collisions.
'Calculations show that it's possible to create a special purpose spacecraft within the time we have, which would help avoid the collision without destroying it (the asteroid) and without detonating any nuclear charges,' Mr Perminov said.
'The threat of collision can be averted.'
Boris Shustov, the director of the Institute of Astronomy under the Russian Academy of Sciences, hailed Mr Perminov's statement as a signal that officials had come to recognize the danger posed by asteroids.
'Apophis is just a symbolic example, there are many other dangerous objects we know little about,' he said, according to RIA Novosti news agency.