Armageddon: Fact vs. Fiction
((Based on the article "Armageddon" from Air and Space Magazine, July 1998. Also based on lectures from U. S. Air Force Academy, July, 1996) Written by Chris J. Landinguin
- Will the Earth be hit by an asteroid in the future? Yes. According to many Astronomers, the has been hit by asteroids in the past, and will be hit again. We are possibly due to be hit by an asteroid, one mile wide, in the year 2038. As of right now, it looks like it will miss us by 600,000 miles, about 3 times the distance of the moon. Now this can be changed if the gravity of the Earth or the Moon change its trajectory.
- Is there any scientific basis for both "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon"? Yes. Gerry Griffin, former Director of Johnson Space Center, And former Astronaut Dave Walker were both technical advisors for these movies. In addition, Joe Allen, also an astronaut taught the actors on "Armageddon" how to behave like astronauts in a weightless environment (remember, An asteroid is so small that it has a small mass, and therefore has very little gravity. A 200 pound person would weigh less than 2 pounds, probably closer to 1 pound.).
- Does an asteroid look like it was portrayed in both movies???? NO!!!!! Asteroids resemble more of a potato, than it does the objects portrayed in the movies. Asteroids are mostly smooth with only impact craters from being hit by space debris.
- Which movie was more realistic? According to Allen, Armageddon, was closer to reality. It is quite difficult thought for a shuttle type craft to make such maneuvers. It would take 4 days to get to the moon, and about another 1 or two more days to reach the asteroid. To make such a maneuver, and hope the moon is in the right place, and the launch window is correct is truly good luck.
- Does such a shuttle exist now? Could one possibly be built? A shuttle, such the ones used in Armageddon are not in use by NASA, or on the drawing boards (at least none admitted to by the military) but NASA feels that could be built similar to the ones in the movies. I find it difficult, however, from what I have studied, that such a spacecraft could survive. For one, just a flick of paint can put a hole in the shuttle the size of a quarter. How is it that chunks of asteroid can't do this? In addition, it's very difficult for me to believe that a shuttle could land on an asteroid and successfully get off of one.
- Could two shuttles be launched at the same time? According to NASA, this is possible. There are two launch pads, as well as two capcom control rooms, so this is a possibility.
- Would NASA use oilriggers as astronauts? NO! More than likely, Astrogeologists would be used for such a job.
- Could Astronauts be trained that quickly? NO!
- Would a nuclear package effectively take care of an asteroid? No, it is not very likely that blowing up an asteroid would keep most of the major pieces of the asteroid from hitting Earth.
- How many asteroids as of today have the potential of hitting Earth? As of today, there are 112 objects or PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids) that have the potential to hit Earth. If you are curious these can be seen at Harvard's research site.
Copyright ©1998 LASA Station, a division of Cyberpunk, Inc.