NASA has revealed it is looking into the possibility of using nuclear blasts to destroy potentially threatening asteroids.
The US space agency has begun working with the National Nuclear Security Administration to work out how best to identify and destroy the dinosaur busting space rocks.
The ‘New York Times’ reported how the agencies have run supercomputer simulations and even gone as far as designing a rocket that could deliver the planet saving payload.
The NASA announcement comes in the wake of revelations from NASA asteroid hunting chief Jason Kessler, who last week who admitted that there are hundreds of thousands that are on potential collision course with the earth and millions more that are yet to be identified. Mr Kessler spoke at a conference of scientists looking to protect the planet from “Asteroid strike” at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Washington, Maryland, USA.
Most of these smaller asteroids could be dealt with using other technologies that are currently in development that would allow robotic spacecraft to alter the trajectory of the asteroids by smashing into them with enough impact to divert them away from earth, as long as they are spotted in time.
The smaller asteroids could still impact the Earth with enough force to devastate a city or destroy an ecosystem.
The problem, the agency said, is that we may not have “several years to a decade.”
“Since the number of near-Earth asteroids increases as their sizes decrease, we are most likely to be hit by the relatively small objects that are most difficult to find ahead of time,” the agency said. “As a result, consideration must also be given to the notification and evacuation of those regions on Earth that would be affected by the imminent collision of a small, recently-discovered impactor.”
However some of the larger asteroids would require more drastic action and that is when the nuclear option comes into play. The plans could involve events similar to the 1998 Bruce Willis movie Armageddon where a group of drilling experts were sent into space to plant a nuclear bomb under the surface of an approaching asteroid. It’s more likely that a spacecraft would blast a hole into the asteroid before dumping the payload into the crater, rather than a bunch of redneck oil riggers get trained as astronauts but it comes pretty close.
The announcements come in the run-up to World Asteroid Day on June 30 which is also the anniversary of the famous Tunguska impact of 1980 in Siberia where an asteroid wiped out over 1000 square km of forest. Asteroid Day is a global awareness movement where people from around the world come together to learn about asteroids and what we can do to protect our planet. Their main aim is to increase our asteroid defences by 100x and is supported by Brian May from the rock band Queen (who is also a doctor of physics) as well other leading scientists including Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins , Carolyn Shoemaker, Brian Cox, Chris Hadfield, Lord Martin Rees and Mark Kelly.