Doomsday asteroid measuring almost 500 metres would hit the Earth and wipe us all out by 2035. Researcher says that it's even bigger than the Empire State Building and travels at an estimated speed of more than 100,000km/h.
The US space agency has published details of its Hammer Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response) deterrent, an eight-tonne spaceship which could deflect a giant space rock.
‘HAMMER’ was devised by top experts, including Nasa, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and two Energy Department weapons labs, according to Buzzfeed.
Nasa has said previously that Earth is overdue a huge asteroid strike and programmes are in places across the globe to map dangerous rocks as they move through the Solar System.
Last year a 100-foot asteroid named 2012TC4 passed within 27,000 miles of Antarctica, a distance that astronomers described as ‘damn close.’
The spacecraft can dispatch an asteroid collision threat in two ways.
1. The first will involve hitting the asteroid, and then steering so that it doesn’t hit the Earth.
2. The second be dangerous as it would see the HAMMER detonating its onboard nuclear warhead to change the asteroid’s course.
“If the asteroid is small enough, and we detect it early enough, we can do it with the impactor,” explained physicist David Dearborn.
“The impactor is not as flexible as the nuclear option when we really want to change the speed of the body in a hurry.”
According to scientists, this can be useful in 2035 as there is a 1 in 2,700 chance the Bennu asteroid will hit us.
The Atomic Energy Commission has shown that a one gigaton warhead detonated about 10 miles up could be expected to start fires over an area of more than 430,000 square miles, an area more than four times the size of Britain.
Dante Lauretta, professor of Planetary Science in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, said Bennu’s impact would release “three times more energy than all nuclear weapons detonated throughout history”.
“The impact would release energy equivalent to 1,450 megatons of TNT,” he said.
“For comparison, the fission bombs used in World War II had an energy release of roughly 20 kilotons of TNT each and the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated, the Russian Tsar Bomba, had a yield of 50 megatons.”
Nasa’s Centre for Near-Earth Object Studies now lists 73 asteroids which have a 1 in 1,600 chance of hitting the Earth.
Earlier this week, a team of Russian researchers from Rosatom, the state nuclear energy corporation, and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), announced they had constructed and blown up tiny asteroids in the lab to calculate how much power it would take to prevent a devastating impact.
“At the moment, there are no asteroid threats, so our team has the time to perfect this technique for use later in preventing a planetary disaster,” says study co-author Vladimir Yufa, an associate professor at the departments of Applied Physics and Laser Systems and Structured Materials, MIPT.
“We’re also looking into the possibility of deflecting an asteroid without destroying it and hope for international engagement.”