To protect the Earth from a devastating collision with a large asteroid, one scientist says the best solution would be to nuke it.
Bong Wie, director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University, said his team is developing a plan in which a spacecraft would take a nuclear warhead to an asteroid headed toward the Earth, according to a report in Space.com.
Wie, a professor of aerospace engineering, spoke about his plan at the International Space Development Conference in La Jolla, Calif. He could not be reached for comment.
Wie reportedly described a two-section spacecraft that would deliver the nuclear warhead. The craft would separate as it neared the asteroid with the first part using the force of its impact to blast a hole into the asteroid. The second section, carrying the warhead, would fly into the hole and detonate the bomb.
By blowing up the asteroid into pieces, Wie said that 99% of the debris would never hit the Earth. Most of the remaining 1% would burn up in the atmosphere.
Saying that he could have the system ready in about a year, Wie said he would want to have two spacecraft on constant standby. If one spacecraft failed to launch successfully or if it failed to destroy the asteroid, the second spacecraft could try to finish the job.
Like in the movie Armageddon, the plan may not be so far fetched.
In 2007, NASA released a report to Congress saying that the best way to deal with an asteroid on a collision course with Earth would be to blow it up with a nuclear bomb.
In the report, Near-Earth Object Survey and Deflection Analysis of Alternatives, the space agency said nuking an asteroid is calculated to be 10 to 100 times more effective than any non-nuclear alternatives.
Nuclear alternatives include conventional explosives, as well as a "space tug" that would tow the asteroid away from Earth's orbit.
Asteroids have been the focus of attention at NASA several times in recent months.
This spring, NASA's proposed $17.7 billion budget included plans to capture and redirect an asteroid into orbit around Earth so astronauts can study it. The project would help scientists learn more about the makeup of asteroids in an attempt to protect the Earth from devastating collisions.
In January, Deep Space Industries Inc. announced that it's working to launch spacecraft to mine asteroids and set up outer space gas stations to serve space colonies. The company is scheduled to launch a fleet of spacecraft in 2015 to begin taking images of nearby asteroids. In 2016, the company plans to launch spacecraft that would grab asteroid samples and return them to Earth.
This article, Best plan to save Earth from a killer asteroid? Nukes!, was originally published at Computerworld.com.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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