Scientists have given some thought as to how we'll defend ourselves when a giant asteroid inevitably heads our way and solutions range from paintballs to nukes. A team at Iowa State University has settled on the latter, and they've got plans for a ship that can do it waiting in the wings.
While the plan would be similar to that in Armageddon—drill a hole in the asteroid, blow it up with a nuke—the idea would be to have a specialized ship specifically designed for that purpose. Enter the Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle or HAIV. The HAIV does not rely on drill robots or Bruce Willis, but rather two different explosives, one to blast out a crater, and then a nuke, which would follow just a split second later and tear the asteroid apart. And all this is without a single human being on board.
We don't have one of these bad boys yet, but it's not far off. "Using our proposed concept, we do have a practically viable solution - a cost-effective, economically viable, technically feasible solution," study leader Bong Wie said at a recent NASA-sponsored conference. They've already gotten two rounds of funding, and describe the plan as "eminently achievable."
Of course the best solution is spotting an asteroid years or even decades ahead of time, and doing something a little less drastic, but you always want to have a backup plan to save your ass if you miss something, and the HAIV is one hell of a backup plan. A dangerous incoming asteroid in the future is pretty much a certainty, but hopefully we'd have it dealt with long before it posed a real threat. If we did have to use a nuke though, that'd be pretty sweet, so I guess it's OK. Just so long as we're ready in time. [SPACE.com]