When Bruce Willis led a group of blue-collar heroes into space to nuke an asteroid in the 1998 film Armageddon, the idea seemed like something destined to stay, well, in the movies. But a group of U.S. scientists now say that hitting an asteroid with a nuclear bomb could actually work out pretty well to avert a potential strike on Earth.
A U.S. Department of Energy team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico fired up a supercomputer to figure out whether a 1-megaton nuke could stop a 1,650-foot-long asteroid. The results? Pretty Armageddon-esque, according to MSNBC.
"Ultimately this 1-megaton blast will disrupt all of the rocks in the rockpile of this asteroid, and if this were an Earth-crossing asteroid, would fully mitigate the hazard represented by the initial asteroid itself," scientist Bob Weaver said.
Heck, according to the simulation, a real-life mission might even be easier than the one depicted on the big screen. In the movie, the team had to drill into the asteroid to deposit the bomb close to its core. But, according to the simulations, a direct hit could probably do the trick.
Of course, using a nuke could have some side effects—namely, raining a bunch of smaller space debris on our lovely planet once the larger object breaks up.
Ideally, scientists would prefer to use some more benign tactics to avert the apocalypse, i.e. landing a heavy probe on an asteroid to shift the gravity and change the path. Or we could just slam a spacecraft into it to accomplish about the same thing. Whatever works.
Oh well, nice to know all those nukes we have sitting around can be used for something (other than self-annihilation).