Asteroid Bennu will be flying close to Earth in 2135 and while it has a 1 in 2,700 chance of hitting Earth, US space agency NASA isn’t going to leave it to chances and reports have emerged that it is planning to nuke the asteroid before it smashes into Earth.
Bennu will be flying close to Earth on September 21, 2135 and despite the probability of it hitting Earth are low, 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.
NASA is working with 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.