Killer Asteroids

08.04.14

U.S.—Russia Tensions Nuke Plans For Real-Life ‘Armageddon’ Asteroid Defense

The U.S. Energy Department, apparently, is being forced to close its eyes.

Rising tensions between the United States and Russia, stemming from the latter’s recent aggressions, have upended the Obama administration’s ambitious Russia “reset”—and with it, the once-promising U.S.-Russian plans to destroy killer asteroids with nuclear bombs.

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a story detailing how the Ukraine crisis has stalled an accord that promised “one of the most expansive collaborations ever between the countries’ nuclear scientists, including reciprocal visits to atomic sites to work on projects ranging from energy to planetary defense.” Some of those plans for planetary defense sound like they were ripped right out of a Michael Bay movie.

Via the NY Times:

The Energy Department’s announcement of the deal also highlighted its potential for “defense from asteroids,” shorthand for a proposal to recycle a city-busting warhead that could be aimed at an incoming earth-destroyer—a plot Hollywood had imagined 15 years before in two far-fetched thrillers, Armageddon and Deep Impact, in which Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, among others, saved humanity.

Today, the real-life accord is on ice. This year, the Energy Department canceled nuclear meetings, symposia and lab visits with Russia.

Daniel B. Poneman, the deputy energy secretary, said that Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March had prompted the decision to freeze the accord.

For the record, Deep Impact is about a comet, not an asteroid. Armageddon is the one where a NASA-recruited team of blue-collar oil-drillers embark on a mission to blow up an asteroid, on the condition that they never have to pay taxes ever again.

This kind of real-life “defense from asteroids” has been gaining support, both from the government and elsewhere, in recent years. NASA has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to study nuking world-ending asteroids, and American nuclear-weapons scientists were reportedly ecstatic over the prospect of working with the Russians on it.

But if you’re worried that the derailment of this initiative will leave human civilization unprepared for any potential world-obliterating space rock, you can rest easy. The Obama administration also proposed a $100 million plan to research how to deflect and defeat killer asteroids—though congressional Republicans have been getting in the way of this. If all else fails, at least Bill Nye has a plan to save the planet by fighting asteroids with lasers.

Now, enjoy the music video for “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” the Aerosmith power ballad from Armageddon:

Video screenshot