If an asteroid the size of a small village were headed straight toward Earth, there isn’t much we could do on short notice to prevent a major disaster – except blow it up, that is.
Scientists are investigating the possibility of using a specially designed spacecraft to nuke approaching cosmic objects, in hopes that doing so could deflect the threat.
While it could be possible to divert a near-Earth object by slamming into it with a so-called impactor, experts say a nuclear explosion may be the best bet when time is running out.
In a new paper, scientists from NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration have laid out a plan for the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER).
The 8.8-ton HAMMER spacecraft could be used to steer itself directly into a small asteroid, or blow the space rock up using a nuclear device, according to BuzzFeed News.
The team has devised a proposal around a potential impact with the 1,600-foot-wide asteroid Bennu, which is currently the destination for NASA’s Osiris-Rex sample return mission.