Skip to comments.Scientists Propose An Asteroid Nuke Mission To Save Earth From Potential Destruction
Posted on 03/21/2018 10:47:49 AM PDT by LibWhacker
Some might say its paranoid to think about an asteroid hitting Earth and wiping us out. But the history of life on Earth shows at least 5 major extinctions. And at least one of them, about 65 million years ago, was caused by an asteroid.
Preparing for an asteroid strike, or rather preparing to prevent one, is rational thinking at its finest. Especially now that we can see all the Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) out there. The chances of any single asteroid striking Earth may be small, but collectively, with over 15,000 NEAs catalogued by NASA, it may be only a matter of time until one comes for us. In fact, space rocks strike Earth every day, but theyre too small to cause any harm. Its the ones large enough to do serious damage that concern NASA.
NASA has been thinking about the potential for an asteroid strike on Earth for a long time. They even have an office dedicated to it, called the Office of Planetary Defense, and minds there have been putting a lot of thought into detecting hazardous asteroids, and deflecting or destroying any that pose a threat to Earth.
One of NASAs proposals for dealing with an incoming asteroid is getting a lot of attention right now. Its called the Hyper-velocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response, or HAMMER. HAMMER is just a concept right now, but its worth talking about. It involves the use of a nuclear weapon to destroy any asteroid heading our way.
The use of a nuclear weapon to destroy or deflect an asteroid seems a little risky at first glance. Theyre really a weapon of last resort here on Earth, because of their potential to wreck the biosphere. But out in space, there is no biosphere. If scientists sound a little glib when talking about HAMMER, the reality is theyre not. It makes perfect sense. In fact, it may be the only sensible use for a nuclear weapon.
The idea behind HAMMER is pretty simple; its a spacecraft with an 8.8 ton tip. The tip is either a nuclear weapon, or an 8.8 ton kinetic impactor. Once we detect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, we use space-based and ground-based systems to ascertain its size. If its small enough, then HAMMER will not require the nuclear option. Just striking a small asteroid with sufficient mass will divert it away from Earth.
If the incoming asteroid is larger, or if we dont detect it early enough, then the nuclear option is chosen. HAMMER would be launched with an atomic warhead on it, and the incoming offender would be destroyed. It sounds like a pretty tidy solution, but its a little more complicated than that.
A lot depends on the size of the object and when its detected. If were threatened by an object weve been aware of for a long time, then we might have a pretty good idea of its size, and of its trajectory. In that case, we can likely divert it with a kinetic impactor.
But for larger objects, we might require a fleet of impactors already in space, ready to be sent on a collision course. Or we might use the nuclear option. The ER in HAMMER stands for Emergency Response for a reason. If we dont have enough time to plan or respond, then a system like HAMMER could be built and launched relatively quickly. (In this scenario, relatively quickly means years, not months.)
One of the problems is with the asteroids themselves. They have different orbits and trajectories, and the time to travel to different NEOs can vary widely. And things in space arent static. We share a region of space with a lot of moving rocks, and their trajectories can change as a result of gravitational interactions with other bodies. Also, as we learned from the arrival of Oumuamua last year, not all threats will be from our own Solar System. Some will take us by surprise. How will we deal with those? Could we deploy HAMMER quickly enough?
Another cautionary factor around using nukes to destroy asteroids is the risk of fracturing them into multiple pieces without destroying them. If an object larger than 1 km in diameter threatened Earth, and we aimed a nuclear warhead at it but didnt destroy it, what would we do? How would we deal with one or more fragments heading towards Earth?
HAMMER and the whole issue of dealing with threatening asteroids is a complicated business. Well have to prepare somehow, and have a plan and systems in place for preventing collisions. But our best bet might lie in better detection.
Weve gotten a lot better at detecting Near Earth Objects,(NEOs), Potentially Hazardous Objects (PHOs), and Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) lately. We have telescopes and projects dedicated to cataloguing them, like Pan-STARRS, which discovered Oumuamua. And in the next few years, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will come online, boosting our detection capabilities even further.
Its not just extinctions that we need to worry about. Asteroids also have the potential to cause massive climate change, disrupt our geopolitical order, and generally de-stabilize everything going on down here on Earth. At some point in time, an object capable of causing massive damage will speed toward us, and well either need HAMMER, or another system like it, to protect ourselves and the planet.
Too much Hollywood watchers in the ‘science’ community.
What about preventing a zombie apocalypse too???
We are trillions in debt. If we had spent that money more wisely we would already have been well on our way to cataloging a huge chunk of the country and city killing objects as well, and we might also already have deployed a system like HAMMER.
But our government is populated with shortsighted idiots.
So will an asteroid do us in before GoreBull warming?
This IS a live and present danger.
Is it worth considering?
The risk might be very low, but the consequences might be an extinction level event.
What people think comes down do a few key ideas and values.
- Is life special and holy?
- If so, should we trust in divine intervention from God, or do God expect human intervention from us.
- Is life just nihilism and hedonism... *where’s my bong*
I saw the movie.
“uh oh!! An Asteroid is headed our way!! We’re Doomed!!”
Out walks a man in Black with dark shades on... “Fear not young miss!! It’s HAMMER Time!!” (Que up MC hammers famous tune here!...)
In all seriousness, if a big rock did say collide with another and got deflected our way, I’d be down with a Nuke tipped rocket to deflect it! I mean we do have the tech to do it!! and, space is pretty big, and we’re pretty small. I wouldnt want to die from a space rock!! js...
Detection has to be the key. Because for the forseeable future we can only hope to alter any orbit with years warning in advance.
No current “Hammer” containing the combined explosive power of our nuclear arsenal is not enough to divert or remove a planet killer.
Though, detection is not enough.
There might be a huge meteor obiting on the millenial time scales coming for us sunside, and there would be absolutely nothing we could do.
So, I agree with Hawkin.
If we value human life.
We need to diversify off planet.
We’ll be under a mile of ice before we get hit by a large meteor.
I thought most of the NEA’s are naturally drawn into the gravity wells of the larger planets. Wouldn’t it be easier to nudge them the rest of the way?
I saw let Mr. Asteroid do his thing. Who are we to interfere? ;)
Has there ever been one of those?
Otherwise, I’d agree with you; lots of hype around this possibility. But we have lots and lots of brain power. We can afford to let some of it work on asteroids.
One thing the movie “Armeggedon” got right, is that to destroy a comet or asteroid with a nuclear bomb, you will have to LAND on it, DRILL a hole into the center of the mass, and insert your bomb. Setting a nuke off on the surface of the body, will do little to nothing. (N.B. No atmosphere, no shockwave.) Hitting the body with something fast and heavy, in the right spot, would be the best way to deflect anything.
A better way to dispose of any such troublesome rocks, would be to fly out there, and attach something like the Space Shuttle’s Solid Rocket Boosters. Probably would need a few smaller steering rockets, as well. Then set a course and fly the thing into the Sun, and permanently eliminate it.
Sure. And each and every one of the fragments of the bomb and of the object will become another hazard, to be tracked.
Absolutely. That’s the nice thing about it. It isn’t always necessary to vaporize a mountain-sized of chunk rock and iron. Just slightly nudge it while it’s still millions or billions of miles away and it won’t even come close to us.
Trouble is, that “nudge” would be like traveling back in time and doing something that would change the future.
We don’t know the repercussions of changing it’s course.