I won’t go into why I absolutely despise the film Armageddon. It just never did anything for me and it made me realize at a young age that Steven Tyler should never do rock ballads. Despite the film’s weaknesses, it does propose a very good question. Could a team of oil drillers blow up an asteroid with a nuclear weapon?
Science doesn’t believe in leaving questions to hang so they set out to answer the question last year in a study that was just dug up today by Network World. By taking clues given in the movie about the size, trajectory and speed of the asteroid, the scientists at the University of Leicester calculated the effectiveness of a placing a nuclear weapon inside the asteroid.
The answer: a resounding no. We would all die and NASA would have just wasted billions of dollars sending a under educated team of oil drillers to space. Why would such a foolproof plan fail? The asteroid is just moving too fast. They also note that the most powerful nuclear weapon on earth wouldn’t be powerful enough to split the asteroid in time before it collided with earth.
What’s interesting is that the plan in Armageddon is feasible and totally doable. The only problem is that the asteroid must be detonated long before it ever reaches Earth. In Armageddon, the asteroid is detonated 63,000 miles away from Earth which is the minimum safe distance according to movie scientists. Real scientists say the actual safe distance is more like 88 AU, or 8.1 billion miles.
While the team at movie NASA can’t save us from a potentially catastrophic asteroid strike, the real NASA has a few ideas that might work better in our favor. They also don’t require the man power or nuclear weapons that the film used. In all honesty, this is more realistic scenario: