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New spacecraft could nuke incoming asteroids


Posted on Sunday, 11 March, 2018 | Comment icon 24 comments

Asteroids still pose a very real threat to our planet. Image Credit: NASA Goddard Conceptual Image Lab
NASA is working with US nuclear authorities to develop a spacecraft that can nuke dangerous space rocks.
Known as HAMMER (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response), the new probe is being developed with the help of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

In order to deflect an incoming asteroid, the spacecraft will have two options available.

The first and most preferable option would involve attempting to alter the asteroid's trajectory by directly smacking in to it at high speed. Even the slightest nudge off course could potentially work.

If there is not enough time for this however, the backup option would be to detonate a nuclear weapon with the goal of either deflecting or destroying the asteroid before it reaches Earth.
NASA has been using the asteroid Bennu, which is the target of the exploratory OSIRIS-REx mission, to calculate a hypothetical test of the HAMMER program. While Bennu only has a 1 in 2,700 chance of striking Earth in 2035, if it did happen to hit us the consequences would be devastating.

Due to its large size, the space agency has proposed sending a whole fleet of HAMMER probes to smack in to it over an extended period of time to slowly divert its trajectory away from our planet.

The nuclear option would also be available if there wasn't enough time left to accomplish this.

With any luck however, such a solution will never need to be implemented in a real-world scenario.

Source: Extreme Tech | Comments (24)

Tags: NASA, Asteroid, Nuke

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #15 Posted by seanjo on 12 March, 2018, 22:38
I kinda said that.  
Comment icon #16 Posted by Grandpa Greenman on 13 March, 2018, 14:40
Innovations in murder. Innovations in prosthetics. Was the Afghan and  Iraq war worth destroying our economy, because that was what it did? Cooperation also brings innovation without the consequences war.        
Comment icon #17 Posted by Silent Trinity on 20 March, 2018, 10:14
I think a far more effective method would be to get Harry Stamper and the boys into training now....    
Comment icon #18 Posted by Peter B on 20 March, 2018, 10:36
The thing is, when it comes to risk assessment, the matrix has two axes. One axis is the likelihood of the Bad Thing happening. The other axis is the effect if the Bad Thing does actually happen. In the case of an asteroid impact, sure, the likelihood is minuscule. But if it does happen, the effect is likely to be extremely serious. Look at a risk assessment matrix, and the risk rating is higher than you might suspect. Put it all together, and researching ways to protect us against asteroid impact is quite rational. ETA: That doesn't necessarily mean this method is the best; there are other (n... [More]
Comment icon #19 Posted by Peter B on 20 March, 2018, 10:39
A good point, except it depends on how far away the rock is when it's nuked: the further away the less debris will collide with the Earth.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Sir Smoke aLot on 20 March, 2018, 13:16
If it's strong enough to vaporize it but not strong enough to mess up environment on Earth it might be the best option for defense. Well, aside from the fact that it's the only option
Comment icon #21 Posted by Alien Origins on 20 March, 2018, 21:20
Well my guess is they would have to spot it at least 10 years out...You know how slow NASA is? By the time they get the thing up it may be to late.
Comment icon #22 Posted by Peter B on 21 March, 2018, 10:11
Slow? Sure, they're slow with things that have to operate in alien environments, and for which there isn't any significant problem if there's a delay. Project Apollo shows how fast NASA could operate when they only had an artificial deadline and buckets of money. If there was an asteroid Earth-bound, I think the purse-strings would be opened even more, and NASA would be even faster. In any case, I'm pretty sure NASA wouldn't stop at building just one such spacecraft - what's the harm in building two...or even ten? Nothing like a little redundancy when civilisation as we know it is on the line.... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by Alien Origins on 21 March, 2018, 10:16
Coming in from the Sun makes them harder to spot...The Cheblinsky meteor is a fine example of that.....And I agree I am sure they would build more than one. https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/nda/
Comment icon #24 Posted by Piney on 21 March, 2018, 11:07
The U.S. already put one up there according to some sources. But it's pointed downward. 


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