If the giant asteroid is going to fall on Earth, it would be a definite end to entire humanity. In order to avoid this wonderful perspective and inspire the remake of the “Armageddon” movie, a group of scientists have decided to research the opportunity of shielding our planet from asteroids by using nuclear bombs. No kidding!
The idea of hitting asteroids with nukes sounds like a science fiction movies scenario, but among the scientists that work on organizing the planetary defense, it was discussed as the real option of defending our planet from the space threats.
During the press-conference of American Geological Society that was held past week, scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and from NASA were discussing the best ways of protecting Earth from total extinction in case of asteroid threat. During these discussions, two ideas we attracting the most attention: kinetic percussion shells that will change the trajectory of asteroids and a more radical idea that involves using direct nuclear bombs hit that will completely destroy the space objects, located near the planet.
The scientists are aware of more than 15 000 space objects that may possess a huge threat to our planet. The question of planetary defense – the concept of our protection from the cosmic objects – was firstly discussed decades ago, but it has become of current interest this year only. Another interesting takeaway from the conference is the newly established NASA Coordinating Center for Earth Protection that has been working on OSIRIS-Rex space mission which main goal is to deliver asteroid samples to Earth, as well as on the AIM (Asteroid Redirect Mission) which goal is to visit the object near Earth and to redirect it on a stable trajectory away from our planet.
Such missions as OSIRIS-Rex and AIM are only the first baby steps in understanding the real threat behind the space objects. However, the development of effective methods of defending ourselves from these threats is the problem of a completely different level.
“It is very important for us to lower down our response time to these threats” – says Joseph Nat from NASA.
In the future, Nat sees a well-defended Earth with the small fleet of special “observatory space vehicles” that will defend our planet by searching for space objects that possess a threat to our planet. After they will find these dangerous objects, they will collect all the information from them and transmit it to the “space-interceptors” which are located on the surface of the Earth.
“The observatory vehicles will be able to gather all the necessary information about these space objects: size, velocity, and angle of rotation, shape, and orbit. Ideally, as soon as the observer will find the object with the high chance of collision, in the next year or so, the interceptors will destroy it.” – says Nat.
Katarina Plesco, the researcher from Los Alamos National Laboratory uses supercomputers to effectively model the process of reflecting the asteroids. She thinks that in terms of time, kinetic shells will be much less radical and much more effective. Only in the case of very big space objects, the last resort could be nuclear strikes.
“This technology can turn out to be very helpful as it will allow us to intercept the object that moves at a high velocity. However, if we need to have more energy in order to change the trajectory of flight, the nuclear strike seems to be the best option!” – states Plesco.
Plesco, Nat, and their colleagues are planning to continue the work on the projects AIM and OSIRIS-Rex, figuring out the exact solution to the problem. In particular, they want to draw the public’s attention to the problem of the planetary security and figure out the necessary amount of nuclear warheads for using against the asteroids of different shapes.