Moscow - Russian rockets tipped with nuclear weapons could be used to intercept asteroids on a trajectory for a catastrophic collision with Earth, officials at the Russian aerospace research institute said on Friday.
Russia's veteran Soyuz-2 booster, and its even bigger planned replacement, the Rus-M, could be used to divert or destroy an incoming asteroid up to 700m in diameter, said Vladimir Degtyar, director of the Makeyev State Rocket Centre (MSRC).
Smaller asteroids would be shattered by explosions set off on a planetoid's surface, while the flight path of larger asteroids could be shifted with nuclear detonations adjacent to them, Degtyar said.
Russian scientists have researched the technologies needed for the project and believe it to be workable. However, additional Russian government funding is needed to develop a functional anti-asteroid weapon, Degtyar was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.
MSRC technicians have also developed plans for a reconnaissance rocket that would fly to a potentially threatening asteroid to determine its mass and make-up, prior to the launch of nuclear-tipped rockets.
Asteroid collisions with the Earth are extremely rare, with almost all of them breaking up in the atmosphere.
Scientists have suggested an asteroid that fell near Mexico's Yucatan peninsula some 65 million years ago triggered tremendous climate change and caused the dinosaurs' extinction.