Is This Asteroid Laser Test Proof Scientists in Russia Are Perfecting a Secret Doomsday Weapon?

Monday, 19 March 2018 - 2:33PM
Space
Weird Science
Monday, 19 March 2018 - 2:33PM
Is This Asteroid Laser Test Proof Scientists in Russia Are Perfecting a Secret Doomsday Weapon?
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Image credit: YouTube/Outer Places
Recently, news has been circulating about how, apparently, NASA isn't going to be able to do anything to save us from asteroid Bennu when it crashes into the Earth in 2135.

This story is spurious at best—not only is there a very, very, very slim chance that Bennu will strike Earth, but the space agency, alongside many other bodies around the world, is most definitely undertaking asteroid defense research at present. With over a hundred years to get this perfected, provided we haven't destroyed ourselves with nuclear war by this point, we should be fine.

One of the many ongoing asteroid defense initiatives in development comes from a paper that's been published in Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics, as Russian scientists explore the possibility to shooting a nuclear missile into a giant asteroid in order to protect humanity from a rocky demise.

The plan itself involves using nuclear weapons to blow apart asteroids, Armageddon style, but thankfully, the Russian scientists involved with the test weren't actually playing with dangerous radioactive materials. Instead, miniature model asteroids were blown up using an advanced weaponized laser, in a simulation of the kind of destruction that could be expected if ever Earth needed to defend itself from a giant death rock.

It's worth noting that the models used by the scientists weren't made of polystyrene or cardboard—everything in the test was recreated as accurately as possible, with pretend asteroids made from the same materials as the genuine equivalent.

It turns out, in order to destroy an asteroid that's 656 feet wide, it'd only take a 3 megaton blast, which feels achievable considering that the first nuke ever fired, even in just a test scenario, was over 10 megatons in power. Three megatons would be enough to vaporize a potentially hazardous threat so that its shards can rain down harmlessly, hopefully without destroying Notre Dame Cathedral or the Eiffel Tower.



This is far from the only plan that scientists are considering for dealing with big asteroids, but at this point, it's far too soon to worry about this kind of technology, no matter what form humanity's defense system might eventually employ.

Believe it or now, a Michael Bay movie has lied to you (shocking, right?). A giant asteroid collision is very, very unlikel—by this point, our global space monitoring systems are sophisticated enough that we're already tracking 90 percent of the biggest rocks in the solar system, and there is no danger of death or destruction in our lifetime.

If we're going to be preparing for any space-related catastrophe, we should be focusing on solar flares, which could cook our entire planet's electronic equipment in a matter of minutes, plunging us into the Dark Ages without any of out modern conveniences (nor, crucially, the skills required to function without a computer).

So don't worry too much about asteroids, but do prepare for a world without Google, just in case the unthinkable happens and you suffer a fate worse than death: internet connectivity issues.
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