NASA is already gearing up to destroy asteroid Bennu which has a 1 in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth on September 21, 2135. The space agency reportedly wants to knock it down using nuclear bombs before it reaches us.
While asteroid Bennu’s chances of hitting the Earth or making any contact with our planet are almost next to nil, the US Government still wants to leave no stone unturned to ensure that the threat is neutralized. Bennu’s current position is about 54 million miles from Earth. The asteroid in question is about 1,600-foot-wide and has 87 million-ton weight.
According to a report from BuzzFeed News, NASA along with the National Nuclear Security Administration, and two Energy Department weapons labs will design spacecraft that could explode Bennu if it gets too close. The project is called the HAMMER, which stands for “Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response.”
HAMMER would either use its 8.8-ton bulk impactor to blast a small asteroid or use an onboard nuclear device to deflect a big one.
“If the asteroid is small enough, and we detect it early enough, we can do it with the impactor,” physicist David Dearborn from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory told BuzzFeed News. “The impactor is not as flexible as the nuclear option when we really want to change the speed of the body in a hurry.”
As per the report, there are even chances that HAMMER might not ever be built. This is because the cost of a mission like this is prohibitive. In fact, NASA scientists have declined to give a cost estimate for a mission, citing the sensitivity of pricing information.
The space agency has a space probe on its way to Bennu called the OSIRIS- Rex. The space agency has already spent $800 million on the exploratory mission. The OSIRIS- REx will reach Bennu this year, collect samples and return back to Earth by 2023.