The whole “humanity saves itself from a giant asteroid by blowing it up” story is a well-worn Hollywood plot line, but when it comes to mankind actually having a plan for such a dire event, the truth doesn’t travel far from the silver screen. This week, some of the brightest minds on the planet explained that when it comes to saving the earth from a big ‘ol space rock, blowing it is totally on the table.
There are multiple potential options for dealing with threatening objects in the future, including the possibility that we could merely knock an asteroid off course with a firm nudge. That “kinetic impact” plan is dependent on being able to see the object coming with plenty of time to act. However, as Gizmodo reports, scientists aren’t ruling out the nuclear option.
“A kinetic impactor is basically a giant cannonball,” Catherine Plesko of the Los Alamos National Laboratory said. “Cannonball technology is very good, because you’re intercepting the object at a very high speed. But if you really need a lot of energy, a nuclear burst is the way to go.”
Robert Weaver, also of Los Alamos, noted that a nuclear launch against an asteroid would be a potential option in a “last minute” scenario, assuming humanity’s best chance of avoiding an impact was to attempt to destroy the astroid itself.
NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office has a number of projects in the works that will hopefully help identify and catalog any near-Earth objects that could pose a threat down the road, but it’s interesting that, if worse comes to worse, scientists think a science fiction might actually be the way to go.