How Do We Stop That Meteor From Killing Us All? It’s HAMMER Time!
Remember “Armageddon”? It was the more actiony and less depressing one of the two 1998 meteor movies. If you haven’t seen it (and you MUST, since the animal cracker Ben Affleck/Liv Tyler scene alone is worth the price of admission), basically Bruce and his dirty dozen head up into space to stop a monster rock from destroying all life on earth. They fly up, land on the meteor and plant a nuke to blow it up. Do they save the world? Well, I’m not one for spoilers so YOU watch the movie. Point is, a scientist at a government agency must have seen it one too many times because someone thought it wasn’t a bad idea.
What am I talking about, Willis? HAMMER time, bitches!
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope. It’s the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response (HAMMER) spacecraft. Dude, they TOTALLY named it that JUST for the acronym. It’s a project so massive, or maybe so ridiculous, that it takes four damn government agencies to pull it off. We’re talking the NASA (and shouldn’t it be “the” NASA? Let me know your thoughts Kelsey grammars), the National Nuclear Security Administration, and two Energy Department weapons labs. They haven’t built it …yet, but you KNOW they will! This fits perfectly into our orangutan-in-thief’s plans for a “Space Force,” amirite? Here’s a sciency discussion of it in my usual bedside reading Acta Astronautica. Check out the artist’s rendition of the HAMMER:
I don’t know about you, but to ME it looks like some kind of vaping thingy for when just one canister won’t do. So how does the space bong work? Well, how it’s SUPPOSED to work is that once we detect a scary meteor coming with the four horsemen, we shoot a bunch of these off and basically just bitch-slap it until we deflect it. However, Buzzfeed interviewed a scientist about it, and here’s the not very soothing quote:
Yeah. Wow, buddy. I’m sleeping better already. As a topper (literally), the design calls for arming the HAMMERs with nukes, in case the meteor is too big to just get bitch-slapped away. So, we create a bunch of HAMMERs with nukes on them and nothing could possibly go wrong with THAT scenario, right?
But if Space Force is going to make these, there must be a reasonable chance that there’s a meteor coming right? Well, the answer is “yes,” if you play the Super Lotto thinking you have a reasonable chance of being able to flip off your boss on the way to the Lambo dealership. The odds of a dinosaur-killing rock hitting us before we kill ourselves off via war, global warming or from binge watching Netflix too much is pretty much nil. However, it’s not zero. In the field of Decision Analysis (which I learned from a levitating swami in the Himalayas), you analyze risks not only for their probability of occurring but also for the impact to what you’re analyzing. Low impact and low probability (say, your boss might decide that everyone must now wear eye shadow)? Who cares! High probability and low impact (say, your boss decides that casual Friday doesn’t mean flip flops anymore)? Plan for that one, but don’t stress. High probability and high impact (say, after you find out that the company is going bankrupt, you may get laid off)? Yeah, stress about that one and make a plan. Low probability and high impact (say, what this fucking story is about)? Yeah, plan for sure, but don’t stress.
Here’s the slightly scary thing. The journal that describes the HAMMER program also mentions ONE asteroid specifically by name. Bennu. Sounds like one of the deities from Ghostbusters and maybe it should. It’s the size of a small town. You KNOW what happens if that cabron hits us. Apparently, it’s all happy in its current orbit, but starting in 2175, or the year 155 PT (Post-Trump) as it will be called by then, there’s a 1 in 2700 chance it could hit Earth. No, I have no idea how one comes to that probability. Still, while not a big probability, that’s a pretty bad combination of impact and probability based on our Decision Analysis matrix. And that’s just that rock. According to the NASA (come on, you KNOW it’s growing on you) we’ve cataloged over 15,000 near Earth objects already. Not all of them are extinction event dealios, but maybe, just maybe nuke tipped HAMMERs are a good idea.
With that in mind, I leave you with the prophetic words of a certain baggy pants MC:
Every time you see me, the Hammer's just so hyped
I'm dope on the floor and I'm magic on the mic
Now why would I ever stop doin' this?
With others makin' records that just don't hit
I've toured around the world, from London to the Bay
It's "Hammer, go Hammer, MC Hammer, yo Hammer"
And the rest can go and play
You can't touch this
I am a biochemist MexiCAN. I also write screenplays, ever hoping to get one made.
email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
follow me at: @RealCarlosSagan