There is an asteroid that has a 1 in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth on September 21, 2135. So, NASA scientists have crafted a plan to take care of it.
The plan in a nutshell: blast it with nukes.
The asteroid, named Bennu, is presently orbiting the Sun approximately 54 million miles from Earth. The 1,600-foot-wide, 74-billion-pound space object is not likely to hit the Earth, but in the off chance it does NASA, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and two Energy Department weapons labs have joined forces to design a spacecraft that could explode Bennu if it comes too close for comfort.
As reported by Buzzfeed News, the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response spacecraft, or HAMMER, could employ one of two tactics to fight an impact. If an asteroid is small enough, HAMMER would use an 8.8-ton “impactor” to crush the object. However, if the asteroid is too big, the spacecraft would then use an on-board nuclear device to blow it up.
Physicist David Dearborn from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory even proposed to Buzzfeed News that multiple HAMMER crafts could throw themselves in front of the asteroid to slow it and change its course.
A 2010 report published in the journal Acta Astronautica about defending our planet from near-Earth objects (NEOs) is how the idea for HAMMER came to be.
Yet, there is a chance that the spacecraft may never be built because the cost is likely a serious obstacle for HAMMER’s design approval. NASA scientists did not give a cost estimate for this project but their recent OSIRIS-REx mission, already on route to Bennu, costs over $800 million.
In May 2018, the scientists who designed it will present their work at the Catastrophic Disruption in the Solar System workshop in Japan. Even if NASA and its partners do move forward with the project, it’s important to remember that HAMMER has a 0.0003 percent chance of actually hitting our planet.