No, the title of this article isn’t fooling you, and we’re not reviewing a Michael Bay movie. It turns out NASA has actually designed a spacecraft capable of blasting nuclear weapons to dangerous asteroids.
The Hammer design, as reported by the Acta Astronautica journal, was created as a multi-faceted contingency plan in case of an “Earth-impacting near-Earth object (NEO).” The reasoning is basically to create an aircraft that can either halt the asteroid through a collision or, in case of too many unforeseeable variables, nuke it. The preferred option would always be the impact, but HAMMER would be able to do both things.
The paper will be presented in Kobe, Japan next May, at the 9th Workshop on Catastrophic Disruption in the Solar System.
While a design doesn’t mean the thing will ever get made, it’s good to know we won’t need to send Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck into space to save us from doom. In any case, although scientists haven’t said a number because it’s technically a matter of planetary security, this spacecraft would probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Officially called the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (for a mighty HAMMER acronym), this isn’t solely a NASA enterprise. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration collaborated with the National Nuclear Security Administration and two weapon laboratories from the Energy Department for this fascinating craft.
Why was this designed? Because there’s a teensy chance that an asteroid might collide into our planet over a century from today. To be more precise, BuzzFeed reports that there’s a 1 in 2,700 chance that asteroid village-sized asteroid Bennu will hit us on September 21, 2135.
NASA keeps a close tab on all nearby asteroids, in case the planet needs a last-minute Aerosmith ballad to set the mood. All right, I’ll stop with the Armageddon jokes now, I’m sorry. You can read more about NASA’s treatment and exploration of asteroids at the agency’s website.