Here is a sentence that could only make sense in 2018: Scientists working with the National Nuclear Security Administration, NASA, and the Energy Department have designed a spacecraft capable of blowing up an asteroid with nukes.

BuzzFeed News reports their vehicle, called Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER), could use a number of tactics to defend Earth from asteroids. Small asteroids could be smashed with HAMMER’s 8.8-ton “impactor,” but for the big boys, HAMMER would use a nuke.

According to a new paper published in the journal Acta Astronautica, the idea for HAMMER came from a 2010 report from the National Research Council about defending Earth from Near Earth Objects (NEOs).

“The two realistic responses considered are the use of a spacecraft functioning as either a kinetic impactor or a nuclear explosive carrier to deflect the approaching NEO,” the researchers write.

Article continues below

Physicist David Dearborn of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory elaborated on this to BuzzFeed News.

“If the asteroid is small enough, and we detect it early enough, we can do it with the impactor,” Dearborn says. “The impactor is not as flexible as the nuclear option when we really want to change the speed of the body in a hurry.”

Dearborn and his colleagues considered how HAMMER would fare against a distant asteroid called Bennu, which has a 1 in 2,700 chance of striking Earth on September 21, 2135. They propose that several HAMMER spacecraft would throw themselves in front of the asteroid, slowing it down and deflecting its path to Earth.

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample of Bennu.

While HAMMER might never actually be built due to various constraints, including cost, the scientists on this project say it’s better to be safe than sorry. The team will present their idea this May at the Workshop on Catastrophic Disruption in the Solar System in Japan.

It bears repeating that this is all a plan for the worst-case scenario. Our first line of defense is just hoping that we never need to exoplode an asteroid.

Last week SpaceX pulled off yet another historic flight by launching and recovering one of its Falcon 9 rockets for a record-breaking third time. But the celebration was particularly short-lived: Days later, a subsequent mission went amiss after the first stage of another Falcon 9 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after missing the landing pad at the Kennedy Air Force Base in Florida.

On Monday, scientists revealed the first images of a human inside the world’s newest total body scanner, called EXPLORER. The name is fitting because this scanner really leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, tracking the way drugs and disease progress through every nook and cranny in the body.

Designed by biomedical engineering professor Simon Cherry, Ph.D., and biophysicist Ramsey Badawi, Ph.D. at University of California, Davis, this scanner produces images that look like a hybrid between a PET scan (which is often used to find tumors) and an X-ray, all in ghostly black and white. But what’s interesting about EXPLORER, which will be officially unveiled at the Radiological Society of North America meeting on November 24th, isn’t that it produces detailed images of tissues or bones. Cherry tells Inverse that it can also create 3D movies showing where certain drugs may end up in the body.

We’ve all been there: you’re out and your battery is at 5%. You’re frantically looking for an outlet for your phone in a crowded restaurant or train station. Your phone is like an extension of you so being without it isn’t just annoying, it can be crippling.

The BentoStack Charge is maybe the best solution to the battery life problem. It’s a wireless charger with both an easy to carry lid that charges your phone, and it comes with a storage box to carry a USB charger and even your wireless earbuds.

NASA wants to make the Clavius Base seen in 2001: A Space Odyssey real (or at least something close to it). The space agency recently published a marketing video on November 16 to hype up its ambitious plan to construct both orbiting and stationary lunar outposts.

The National Space Exploration Campaign Report proposes getting humans back on the moon “no later than 2029”, in compliance with the White House’s Space Policy Directive 1. The document states that an orbital lunar depot — called Gateway — along with advanced landers will be fully operational by 2028. NASA believes this infrastructure is a necessary stepping stone toward deeper space exploration.