Hollywood may reckon that the best way to destroy an errant space rock is with nuclear weapons. This is rarely the preferred option of experts, but using some sort of spacecraft system to smash an asteroid into small, harmless pieces is seen as a real-world possibility. A new study, looking at a gigantic space rock-on-space rock clash, hints at how utterly ineffective this type of asteroid assassination attempt may be.
Using computer models, scientists simulated a 4,000-foot asteroid smashing into a 15.5-mile asteroid at 11,200 miles per hour. Immediately after colliding, the large asteroid cracked considerably, with debris flowing outward like a cascade of Ping-Pong balls. Despite some deep fractures, the heart of the asteroid was not comprehensively damaged.
As time went on, the gravitational pull of the asteroid’s resilient core was able to pull back ejected shards. It seems that asteroids don’t just absorb mind-boggling amounts of damage, but, as previous work has hinted, they also are able to rebuild themselves.Maybe if we assembled a team of deep core drillers and sent them up in a couple of armored space shuttles and drilled into the asteroid, it would be fine?