Scientists design 'conceptual spacecraft' for potential asteroid strike

Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have designed a "conceptual spacecraft" in case the asteroid Bennu hits the Earth in the year 2135.
By Tyler MacDonald | Mar 20, 2018
Scientists have come up with a conceptual spacecraft design for a potential asteroid strike in the year 2135. Although the chance of such a strike is "slim," experts say if it happened, the consequences "would be dire," according to a New York Daily News report.

The asteroid is called "Bennu," which is over five football fields in diameter. And it weighs 1,664 times more than the Titanic.

According to experts, it has a 1-in-2,700 chance of hitting the Earth on September 25, 2135. The information was obtained by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a California lab that is part of a national planetary defence team along with NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

"The chance of an impact appears slim now, but the consequences would be dire," said LLNL physicist Kirsten Howley in the recent study published in Acta Astronautica. "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."

The conceptual spacecraft is called the "HAMMER," which stands for"Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response." It is nine meters long, weighs nine tons, and would essentially be used as a "battering ram" or transport vehicle for nuclear weapons.

"The push you need to give it is very small if you deflect the asteroid 50 years out," said Howley. "But that far out, you're likely to think the percentage of being hit would be 1 percent. The probability of a Bennu impact may be 1 in 2,700 today, but that will almost certainly change for better or worse as we gather more data about its orbit. Delay is the greatest enemy of any asteroid deflection mission. That's why there's urgency in getting viable deflection platforms on the shelf today."

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