Armageddon Was Wrong, No Bomb Could Have Destroyed That Asteroid

By Brent McKnight | Published

At one point or another, while watching Michael Bay’s asteroid drama Armageddon, everyone asks themselves, “Would that really work?” Viewers aren’t the only ones who want to know if blowing up an oncoming asteroid is a viable course of action; the movie’s characters also pose that question. And sure, we do realize that we’re talking about a movie, but for the moment, let us pretend that we’re discussing real life.

Armageddon Got It Wrong

As it turns out, Armageddon got it wrong. Students of the University of Leicester in the UK originally set out to answer this question. While it has been determined that it might be possible to redirect an asteroid by using strategically placed nuclear strikes, the students figured out that there is no way they could have blown the flying space rock in half.

Based on the size of the asteroid as given in the movie, you would require 800 trillion terajoules of energy to rend that rock asunder. 

No Bomb Big Enough

Armageddon

Here’s the problem with that Armageddon scenario: the largest bomb ever detonated in the history of bomb detonation was 418,000 terajoules. So bomb makers have quite a ways to go before they’ll be using explosives to save the world by planting a nuke in the heart of an asteroid.

All of our movie heroes will just have to figure out another way to pull our asses out of the collective fire.

Drilling A Major Issue

Armageddon

Plus, of course, there are some other Armageddon issues at play as well. Namely, the idea of drilling into the asteroid and planting a bomb, as depicted in the movie, is oversimplified and unrealistic. It was fancy (and hilarious) bring a bunch of roughnecks as the fish-out-of-water types into the situation. Perfect for movie magic. But realistic? Not so much.

The actual process would be much more complex and would require precise calculations to ensure that the asteroid’s path is altered without fragmenting it into multiple dangerous pieces

DART Mission

Oh, and don’t forget the DART (Double Asteroid Reduction Test) that went down in 2021. In that one, somewhat like Armageddon, NASA actually demonstrated an impact technique by altering the orbit of the asteroid moonlet Dimorphos through a high-speed collision with a spacecraft. Great news, right? 

Well, kind of. It did alter the path of the asteroid, but only to have it move off it’s course over the span of years, not days like in the movie. So close, and yet so far.

Other Armageddon Issues

Through the years, experts have had to take up other complaints about how Armageddon handled things as well. For instance, the movie’s depiction of space explosions and the behavior of objects in space has been criticized by nuclear experts. They point out that in outer space, there is no shock wave as there is no atmosphere to propagate it

Bruce Willis Would Find A Way

Armageddon

No matter the overwhelming amount of scientific data to the contrary, I refuse to believe that Bruce Willis in Armageddon would let me down like that.

He’d find a way to blow up that asteroid using traditional means before it crashes into Earth, wiping humanity out like the dinosaurs.