MOSCOW, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Russia could build a space rocket capable of destroying asteroids on a potential collision course with Earth, the head of an aerospace corporation said.
Existing Russian rocket carriers could be redesigned to produce a rocket capable of destroying an asteroid, Energia chief Vitaly Lopota told the Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta Friday.
"There are three large asteroids, including Apophis, whose orbits cross the Earth's orbit and which could hit the Earth in the next several decades," he said.
Astronomers say Apophis, discovered in 2004, could approach Earth as close as 24,000 miles -- one-tenth the distance between Earth and the moon -- in 2029.
A 70-ton rocket would be needed to change the orbit of an asteroid of Apophis' size by "towing" it away from Earth or destroying it with a thermonuclear blast, Lopota said.
Energia was prepared to construct such a rocket within three to five years, he said.