Real Armageddon? NASA ponders using nuclear warheads to destroy deadly asteroids hurtling toward earth


NASA is reportedly aiming to recreate the scenes of Hollywood blockbuster 'Armageddon' in real life. The American space agency is considering to blow up deadly asteroids hurtling towards earth with nuclear warheads. NASA has named the proposal to blow up asteroids as 'HAMMER', an abbreviation of "Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response''.

According to latest updates, HAMMER mission will be first tested against asteroids like Bennu, which is an 87 million-ton, 1,600-ft celestial body that's currently orbiting the Sun and may collide with Earth in the future.

The modus operandi to blow up threatening asteroids

During the times of an asteroid close flyby, NASA will, first, try to nudge the rock out of its path with spacecraft. This is called 'impactor' method, but it will work for small asteroids. If the asteroid is large and is speeding toward the earth, the only way to escape it will be loading a 'Hammer' spacecraft with nuclear warheads, and hitting against the approaching space body.

"If the asteroid is small enough, and we detect it early enough, we can do it with the impactor. The impactor is not as flexible as the nuclear option when we really want to change the speed of the body in a hurry," said physicist David Dearborn.

Bennu asteroid, a threat to humankind?

Bennu asteroid is currently orbiting the sun, and it is now in a comparatively safe distance from us. However, there is 1 in 2700 chances of getting hit by the asteroid in the next 100 years.

Even though Bennu asteroid is a near-Earth object (NEO) listed as a "potential Earth impactor", the rock is not that mammoth enough to pose an existential threat to earth, reports

NASA's Bennu asteroid probe OSIRIS- REx mission is expected to reach the space body this year, and it will collect samples from the asteroid, and will return back to earth in 2023. Through this mission, the space agency also aims to widen their knowledge regarding asteroids that could impact earth.

Chances of getting hit by an asteroid

Earth has been hit by asteroids throughout the history, and it is believed that a 6-mile asteroid came from deep space has ended the reign of dinosaurs on our planet.

NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies has listed 73 asteroids ranging from house-sized to stadium-sized which may hit our planet in the coming years, with a chance of 1 in 1600. There are also chances of new asteroids to come in the scene from outer space, and sometimes, it may pose threat to our planet.

NASA's NEO (Near-Earth Object) Observations Program is sponsoring several studies of techniques for impact mitigation, while the European Union's NEOShield Project is conducting a detailed analysis of "open questions relating to realistic options for preventing the collision of a NEO with the Earth." NEOShield is considering kinetic impactor options, blast deflection techniques, and gravity-tractor methods.

NASA's NEOO Program has participated in impact-response planning activities with the US Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). and it is also a member of the International Asteroid Warning Network.

This article was first published on March 8, 2018
Related topics : Nasa