Nasa plans huge spacecraft to blow up deadly asteroids
NASA has drawn up plans for a huge nuclear spacecraft capable of shunting or blowing up an asteroid that may threaten to wipe out life on Earth.
The US space agency published details of its Hammer (Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response) proposal, an eight-ton spaceship that could alter the trajectory of a giant space rock.
Nasa has said previously that Earth is overdue a huge asteroid strike and programmes are in places across the globe to map dangerous rocks as they move through the Solar System.
Last year a 100ft asteroid named 2012TC4 passed within 27,000 miles of Antarctica, a distance that astronomers described as "damn close".
In detailed plans published in the journal Acta Astronautica, Nasa and the National Nuclear Security Administration, calculated the time and payload it would take to move or destroy the 1,600ft-wide asteroid Bennu.
Under the plan, the ship would steer into a smaller asteroid, or detonate a nuclear device to destroy a bigger one.
Nasa already has a space probe en route to Bennu to take samples and has been monitoring the asteroid since it was discovered in 1999.
Although there is little risk of hitting Earth, it is still considered as a Near Earth Object, which could hit with the force of 1.45 gigatons of TNT.