Inside NASA’s plan to nuke an asteroid

This image provided by NASA shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at asteroid Bennu.

(Conceptual Image Lab/Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA via AP)

Operation HAMMER may sound like the villain of the master-scheme of a Roger Moore-era James Bond film, but it’s actually NASA’s plan to deal with asteroids threatening the Earth—such as the size of the Empire State Building that could crash into the planet in 2135, Staten Island Live reports.

NASA says that the asteroid known as Bennu, has a height of 2700 k or 0.037%—chance of striking Earth in September of that year. While that is not a very good chance—”Please do not press that an asteroid will crash on Earth”, a NASA aerospace engineer, tells the Washington Post—that hasn’t stopped NASA from the compilation of a contingency plan: Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for the emergency response. Details of the operation HAMMER were revealed in a recent study from NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration published in Acta Astronautica. A possibility is the sending of a 9-ton spacecraft to smash into Bennu, diverting it from the orbit of the Earth. A more likely possibility see NASA detonate a nuclear device on Bennu, Armageddon-style. However, there is no current plan for HAMMER to become a reality. “We do these design studies is to prepare ourselves, so when we find a threatening object, we are better prepared to deal with it,” the aerospace engineer tells the Post. But Gizmodo reports that there may be an easier way to deal with Bennu: splash part of the solar radiation absorbing paint. A NASA spacecraft is currently on a two-year journey to collect a sample of Bennu.

This article originally appeared on Newser: NASA Can Go Armageddon on the Asteroid

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