If you want to use a nuclear weapon to save the world from an asteroid, don’t try to do it the way Bruce Willis did in “Armageddon,” NASA’s planetary defense office would like to remind you.
“If you’ve seen those movies, they’re completely bogus,” Lindley Johnson, the planetary defense officer at NASA headquarters, said during a media session on asteroids and the art of protecting Earth from them held at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference taking place here this week. “That’s not how we would use a nuclear explosive device to do this at all.”
But nuclear weapons are one of three techniques planetary defense experts have their eye on for nudging an asteroid off course if its orbit seems to be carrying it too close to Earth for comfort. Another method, impacting an asteroid, will be tested for the first time during the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, a NASA mission scheduled to launch in June 2021 and collide with an asteroid’s moon in October 2022.
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