Who could forget the 1998 blockbuster movie Armageddon? When an asteroid the size of Texas is discovered heading straight for Earth, NASA sends a bunch of blue-collar drillers to drill into its core to detonate a nuclear device from within.
Unfortunately for the aspiring space cowboys among us, Armageddon probably wasn’t scientifically correct. According to Robert Weaver, a researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, a blast from the surface is enough to destroy Earth-threatening asteroids.
Weaver recently performed his “asteroid mitigation calculation” for an asteroid on “an Earth-crossing trajectory”, as he described it in the Los Alamos video interview (below), using one of the unclassified machines at Los Alamos, called Cielo, with 32,000 processors.
The model for the asteroid was based on Itokawa, which is a granular asteroid, 500 meters long and 250 metres wide, with an orbit in the inner Solar System. Weaver then modelled a one mega-ton blast, starting from the surface of the long side of the asteroid.
“As the shock wave moves through, ultimately this one mega-ton blast will disrupt all the rocks in the rock pile of this asteroid. And if this were an Earth-crossing asteroid, it would fully mitigate the hazard,” Weaver said.