HomeAstronomy8 ways to stop an asteroid: Nuclear weapons, paint and Bruce Willis

8 ways to stop an asteroid: Nuclear weapons, paint and Bruce Willis

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Bruce Willis

The Bruce Willis technique from “Armageddon” (1998) is probably our favorite, although it’s highly unrealistic. Willis plays Harry Stamper, an oil miner by trade, who leads a group of unlikely astronauts, mostly colleagues from his oil rig. They fly out to a hazardous asteroid and try to drill deep in the surface; once the probe is deep enough, the story goes, a nuke should be enough to blow the asteroid off course.

Stamper is determined to do the work well: “I have never, NEVER missed a depth that I have aimed for,” he assures NASA and his team. But things don’t exactly go to plan. The scheme likely wouldn’t have worked anyway, as likely all the nuke would have done was blow up the asteroid into a cloud of debris still on track to hit Earth. 

But if nothing else, Willis and his Hollywood team raised the profile of planetary defense high enough to get in the public eye. In the same year that “Armageddon” and the other big space asteroid film of that time, “Deep Impact,” released, Congress directed NASA to find all of the near-Earth asteroids at least 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) wide that could pose an impact risk to Earth.

Related: Asteroid science: How ‘Armageddon’ got it wrong

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