What’s NASA Preparing for Asteroid Strikes on Earth? Paintball and Nukes
Stopping deadly asteroid strikes is a good thing. But what happens when you use nuclear weapons in space?
Do you ever read the news or get into an argument, get a little depressed, and think to yourself “an asteroid could wipe us all out tomorrow and none of this would matter?”
No, that’s just me?
Well NASA thinks about it — kind of. In fact, NASA takes asteroid strikes very seriously.
Did you know there are 73 asteroids hurling through space with a slim — yet very real — chance of hitting earth? Each these asteroids poses a 1 in 1600 chance of striking our planet. I’m no good with statistics so please correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that amounts to a 0.05% combined chance.
Oh, and, they don’t track all potential asteroids — just the ones larger than a football field. This means something smaller could crash into the earth with no effective warning and still produce disastrous effects. (Sorry.)
Even if we stick with the original figure of 1 in 1,600, this means the chances of an asteroid hitting earth are MUCH higher than winning the lottery, getting attacked by a shark, or dying in a terrorist attack. I don’t like those odds (well, if I’m having a good day) and neither does NASA.
For this reason, NASA invests considerable time, money, and energy into figuring out new and exciting ways to prevent asteroid strikes from hitting our planet. Unfortunately, the ideas they have so far aren’t very reassuring.
“Hit Them With Paintballs”
According to specialist Michael Moreau, this method could take out an asteroid the size of the Empire state building. And, believe it or not, that’s exactly what we might be dealing with in 2135.
Okay, I’m listening.
Researchers already project that the Bennu asteroid aka. “Space Traveler” could either directly hit earth or fly by way too close for comfort on September 22nd, 2135. Yes, they have an exact date apparently.
So, they plan to blast the asteroid into smaller pieces with giant paintballs, right? Nope. The idea is to cover half of Bennu’s surface with paint. This would change the asteroid’s thermal properties and — ultimately — its entire trajectory.
We might also get a little help from our sun which coats everything in the solar system with tiny particles and radiation. By painting Bennu’s surface, it could absorb more of these particles and radiation. The earth is massive so these factors from the sun don’t really affect us. But according to Gizmodo, Bennu is only 13 times heavier than the Great Pyramid at Giza. (Oh, is that all?) This means the particles and radiation would have a pretty intense effect on Bennu.
Hopefully, NASA’s calculations are correct and they don’t have the opposite effect.
What to Do about These Potential Asteroid Strikes, NASA? “Eh, Let’s Just Nuke ’em.”
Ironically, hitting dangerous asteroids with paintballs wasn’t NASA’s first idea. No, striking them with nuclear weapons came first.
So, is everyone at NASA on coke? I have to imagine the vibe in the room drafting this idea had to be similar to how Emilio Estevez describes the set of Maximum Overdrive. In addition to a ton of dangerous accidents, Stephen King admits he was “coked out of [his] mind all through its production, and [he] really didn’t know what [he] was doing.”
Anyways. NASA recently developed a massive nuclear space rocket to take out Bannu — or any other asteroids who try to f*ck with us. It weighs over 8 tons and is part of a project known as HAMMER: Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response.
Considering Washington’s recent race to militarize space, it’s not wild to assume they really just want to nuclearize space as well under the pretext of saving the world from asteroid strikes. The thing is though, nuclear weapons don’t really work in space. Without an atmosphere, there’s no blast and no thermal radiation.
You’re probably better off just keeping your schedule open on September 22nd, 2135.