College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Helpful tips for nuking an asteroid

The worst-case scenario might be if we discovered an asteroid only a couple of weeks away from slamming into us.

Brent Barbee, a flight dynamics engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, believes he has the answer: an interplanetary ballistic missile.

Barbee and Bong Wie, the founding director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center and professor of aerospace engineering at Iowa State University, conducted a three-year study on the feasibility of rapidly intercepting and nuking an incoming asteroid.

In their scenario, we don’t have time to deflect the asteroid. Their proposed solution: a ready-to-launch spacecraft—the Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle (HAIV)—that would penetrate its surface.

And, no, they didn’t get the idea from Bruce Willis and his intrepid band of space oil riggers in the film Armageddon. Previously published studies have examined the potential use of ground-penetrating nuclear weapons as bunker busters here on Earth.

For the original National Geographic story, click here.