An asteroid the size of the Empire State Building has a sliver of a chance of smacking into the Earth in September of 2135, but NASA has a plan to stop it, The Washington Post reported.
The odds the asteroid, called Bennu, actually hits the Earth are about one in 2,700.
If the odds go out of Earth’s favor, however, NASA scientists plan to push the space rock out of the way using a spaceship built under the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response plan, or HAMMER.
Though Bennu is hardly a threat, treating the space rock as if it will hit the Earth and working on strategies to prevent impact is useful in developing plans for similar situations, NASA Aerospace Engineer Brent W. Barbee, who helped develop HAMMER, told The Post.
“We’re doing these design studies to prepare ourselves, so if we do find a threatening object, we’re better prepared to deal with it,” Barbee said.
Bennu is about as long as five football fields and weighs 1,664 times more than the Titanic.
If it were to hit Earth, the impact would release 80,000 times more energy than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Deflecting Bennu becomes more and more difficult as time passes, leading some to question whether HAMMER will actually work should Bennu’s current orbit around the Sun bring the asteroid closer to Earth.
If scientists calculate that Bennu will hit Earth too late, or delay action too long, blasting the space rock with a nuclear war head may be the only option, rather than the giant battering ram developed through HAMMER, according to a study out of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“The chance of an impact appears slim now, but the consequences would be dire,” LLNL physicist and study coauthor Kirsten Howley said.
“This study aims to help us shorten the response timeline when we do see a clear and present danger so we can have more options to deflect it. The ultimate goal is to be ready to protect life on Earth.”
A version of this article appeared on the Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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