Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Killing killer asteroids with nuclear explosives: will this strategy work?

Could nuclear explosives avert a global disaster?
March 25, 2013
Simulation of a nuclear warhead detecting and hitting an asteroid

A nuclear blast deflects a killer asteroid from its impact trajectory with Earth and blows it up into pieces that fly harmlessly off into interplanetary space.

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The nuclear option is for the surprise asteroid or comet, one that comes out of nowhere and gives us just a few months to respond.

Averting a global disaster

SUMMARY

  • We have the technology to rendezvous with a killer asteroid and blow it up with a nuclear explosive.
  • Initial simulations of this complex event on Los Alamos supercomputers give promising results.
  • But accurate predictions require next generation exascale supercomputers.

Los Alamos astrophysicist Robert Weaver is working on how to protect humanity from a killer asteroid by using a nuclear explosive.

Weaver is not worried about the problem of intercepting an asteroid. He would count on the rocket power and operational control already developed by NASA to intercept a threatening object and deliver the nuclear device. NASA’s Dawn Mission has been able to place a spacecraft in orbit around Vesta, a huge almost-planet-size asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and the NASA Deep Impact mission sent a probe into the nucleus of comet 9P/Tempel.

In other words, we have the technology to rendezvous with a killer object and try to blow it up with a nuclear explosive.

But will that strategy avert disaster?


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