Earth is in great danger. An asteroid, the size of the Empire state building, could collide with our home planet. But NASA is planning to create a spacecraft capable of destroying the menacing celestial body before it could destroy the Earth and with it human life.
Bad news: the asteroid Bennu, of almost 500 meters in diameter, travels around the Sun at a speed of more than 100,000 km/h and there are possibilities that it could hit the Earth on September 21, 2135, partially destroying it.
Good news: NASA has recently designed a scientific plan to neutralize the celestial body, which measures almost like the iconic Empire State Building in New York.
A collision Earth and Bennu would release an energy equivalent to 1450 megatonnes of TNT. That’s about three times more than all the nuclear bombs that were ever detonated in the course of history. In comparison, the bomb that hit Hiroshima represents the equivalent of 20 megatonnes of TNT. According to NASA, Bennu has a probability of 1 in 2,700 to collide with Earth.
Bennu has been under surveillance since its discovery in 1999. And NASA has been following been tracing it since 2016, when it launched the robotic space probe OSIRIS-REx to study the dangerous space giant. The probe is scheduled to land in Bennu in August this year and take samples from the asteroid to bring them back to Earth.
While OSIRIS-REx is traveling in space, the agency’s scientists are working on developing a response to the asteroid threat that will possibly involve the use of nuclear weapons.
The Hypervelocity Asteroid Mission for Emergency Response or HAMMER is being designed to blast the asteroid off at a safe distance from the Earth. The “asteroid destroyer” will be developed in collaboration with a security body of the US Government and a weapon laboratory.
Scientists believe that the HAMMER mission could use two tactical missiles to avoid an impact with the asteroid. If it turns out to be small, HAMMER would use an “impactor” of 8.8 tons. If on the contrary, it is too big, HAMMER would rather use an embedded nuclear device to explode it. Scientists are also thinking of sending a fleet of HAMMER to hit the asteroid, slow it down, change its course and drag it back into solar orbit.
This plan is still at the level of theory and is not yet ready. Experts have calculated that it would take 7.4 years from the beginning of Hammer’s construction to when it would strike the Asteroid.
The scientists at the base of the project are expected to present their work in May 2018 in Japan.