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Report: US Gov’t Eyes Nuclear Arm Retention to Handle Asteroids

deep_spaceGovernment agencies such as the National Nuclear Security Administration and NASA are taking measures to protect the Earth from potential collision with asteroids and other large space objects, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

John Emshwiller writes that NNSA has asked to retain some nuclear-warhead components for their potential use as asteroid interceptors, while NASA continues to monitor space for dangerous earthbound objects.

Lindley Johnson, a program executive at NASA, told the Journal that a space telescope with infrared detection features can locate almost all asteroids 109 yards or more in diameter within 10 years.

A NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System in Hawaii is scheduled to be launched by the end of 2015, which would  work to utilize cameras and telescopes and warn emergency planners a few months in advance of potentially earthbound space objects.

Government scientists are also exploring planetary defense methods such as the use of nuclear-armed spacecraft to change the course of an asteroid, Emshwiller reports.

Purdue University’s Jay Melosh told the Journal that nonnuclear methods such as “gravity tractor” or “impactor” can also divert earthbound objects without a need to retain the nuclear arsenal.

A 2010 report by the National Research Council says an asteroid capable of causing widespread destruction to Earth will likely not happen within the next century, Emshwiller reports.

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