NASA is Designing an Asteroid-Destroying Spacecraft Named 'HAMMER'
Despite the chances of another extinction-level asteroid event being incredibly slim, the planet's top scientists continue to come up with increasingly convoluted, Looney Tunes-esque methods of dealing with any big space rocks that might threaten our world. They might just be having fun at this point; how else do you explain NASA's new plans to smash errant asteroids with a giant HAMMER?
Proving yet again that the North American Space Agency deserves an award for its awesome acronyms, NASA has debuted plans for a new Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response spacecraft, nicknamed "HAMMER" for short.
The spacecraft is designed for use in the event of an identified asteroid that could cause catastrophic damage if it were to impact on Earth. While the rocket itself would be state of the art, the method for dealing with this asteroid threat is about as simple as possible - the HAMMER would plow straight into the giant space rock, either causing it to break apart thanks to a well-timed nuclear explosion, or at the very least, forcing it to change course.
NASA has elected not to publicize a projected budget for HAMMER, but given the agency's upcoming budget cuts, this feels like the kind of frivolous project that the government really ought to question.
Humanity's asteroid monitoring capabilities are very advanced by this point, so that we know the trajectory of pretty much every big asteroid in the solar system. The next time our planet is even slightly in danger of being hit by an asteroid is 2136, when there's be a 1 in 2,700 chance that we'll all get squished by a falling space rock.
As there's no immediate pressing danger of a killer asteroid hitting Earth, the only real danger is an unforeseen event, such as an 'Oumuamua style visitor from another solar system that turns up without warning. The odds of this are pretty tiny, so it seems like a bit of a waste of money to build a giant rocket solely for the purpose of playing a game of interstellar pool.
NASA's proposed HAMMER (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response) would blow up oncoming asteroids, despite the fact that our planet is not actually at risk of being hit by a killer meteor for over a hundred years. pic.twitter.com/zFv6uJpoTj— Matthew Loffhagen (@kotorcomics) March 9, 2018
Nevertheless, decades of history lessons about the demise of the dinosaurs has got humanity a little edgy when considering the danger that asteroids pose.
It's entirely possible that the US government will deem HAMMER to be a worthwhile investment, solely in order to ease our species' collective fears about one day being faced with an asteroid collision that would do more than leave a pretty trail in the sky.