Nuking Asteroids: Why One Scientist Wants To Blow Up Space Rocks [VIDEO]

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 30, 2013 2:24 PM EDT

asteroid
Scientist Bong Wie has proposed a plan for nuking dangerous asteroids that may be Earth-bound, in order to prevent the scenario depicted in this illustration. (Photo: Reuters/NASA)

As the QE2 asteroid, a piece of rock nine times the size of a cruise ship, flies past Earth this week, one scientist has made headlines by suggesting we nuke asteroids that may be headed our way.

The plan for nuking asteroids comes courtesy of Bong Wie, director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University. Wie's plan, proposed recently at the International Space Development Conference in California, involves sending a high-speed aircraft with a nuclear warhead towards an Earth-bound asteroid.

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In a concept reminiscent of the plot to Armageddon, Wie described making a hole the asteroid before delivering the nuclear payload. A spacecraft consisting of two halves would head for the Earth-bound asteroid. One part of the craft would consist of a "kinectic energy impactor," which would detach from the craft and blast open the asteroid. Then a nuclear warhead, carried by the second half of the craft, would land inside the newly-made crater.

The resulting explosion would send small fragments of the asteroid into all different directions. Wie believes that 99 percent of the asteroid fragments would not be head towards Earth. Other Earth-bound fragments would burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, Wie says.

Other plans to deter asteroid strikes, including sending vehicles into space that can change the trajectory of an asteroid by slowly pulling it, would be effective, according to Wie, but they would take at least ten years of preparation. Wie says the nuclear option could be implemented within a year of a perceived asteroid threat.

If you think that Wie is a mad scientist, think again. He has the support of NASA, who has given him a $100,000 Innovative Advanced Concepts grant. But Wie says his plan would cost $1 billion, so the grant is only a mere fraction of what he would need to further develop his plan to nuke asteroids. With space cuts coming to space agencies, Wie thinks the next logical funding partner might be the Department of Defense.

Watch below to see the Los Alamos National Lab simulating the nuking of an asteroid.

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