Way back in the grand old days of 1998 a movie was released by the name of Armageddon. In short, Bruce Willis and a rag-tag team of oil drillers embark on a drawing mission to save planet Earth from a coming asteroid, and it is the greatest farce in the history of mankind.
Ok that may be a bit harsh. I personally like the film, but in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. Honestly it’s impossible to unironically enjoy anything by Michael Bay. Anyways last weekend I watched Armageddon again, because it was a hell of a lot better than doing Economics homework. And after 151 uninterrupted minutes of laughing I said to myself, “oh I totally got to blog about this! And so here is: everything that’s wrong with “Armageddon”.
So to recap: NASA discovers a massive (and I mean massive) asteroid that is on course to impact with the Earth in 18 days. They hatch a plan to 1)land on the asteroid, 2)drill a big hole, 3)put a nuke in the hole, 4)blow up asteroid. Naturally the science-types over at NASA can’t get the damned drill working so they enlist a Bruce Willis and his band of misfits to fly to the asteroid before the Earth is smashed to bits. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE.
A couple of things right off the bat. No, NASA would never let a team of oil drillers with 2-weeks worth of training inside Kennedy Space Center, let alone send them to space. Astronauts train for years, and they are more than qualified to operate a space drill.
No, an asteroid of the size seen in the movie would be discovered DECADES before it even came close to Earth (in fact they have been). While it is possible for asteroids to slip by unseen, like the one that came out of nowhere two years ago, the one in the film is so large that is would have a gravitational footprint so large that would make it literally impossible to miss.
That is a terrible idea. Don’t believe me, ask these graduate students from the University of Leicester who literally did the math. Not only is even the largest nuclear device not strong enough to deflect an asteroid as much as is required in the film, but even if the two big hemispheres did manage to miss the earth you would have a rain of hundreds of thousands/millions much smaller, but still very dangerous asteroids. To quote the link above, “sorry Bruce…”
Now let’s get into the film itself. The film opens with New York City getting destroyed by a couple precursor asteroids. Yeah no, the chance of an asteroid hitting Manhattan are in the neighborhood of .000017% or 1 in 5,882,325.
Oh and later in the film Paris and Shanghai iare also destroyed. You know there are other places on the planet. I know blowing up a major city is dramatic and all, but it’s not happening, certainly not three times in the same million years.
Right before our intrepid heroes are to set off on their journey, the head NASA guy shows them this secret new space shuttle they built. A couple of things about that. 1) You can’t hide a space shuttle, like literally you can’t hide it, they’re huge. 2) I’m assuming that their newfangled space shuttle has never flown before, otherwise people would’ve known about it, and NASA never uses untested tech. 3) YOU DON’T LAUNCH TWO ROCKETS SIDE-BY-SIDE, that’s a good way to get everyone killed!
Once we finally get into space, all hell breaks loose. You don’t just fly straight up, if you actually want to stay in space you have to fly around the earth not away from it. Next, it takes longer than two minutes to reach space, establish orbit, and dock with a space station, we’re talking at least a few hours. I’m not even going to touch the god-awful way they dock with Mir. And one last tidbit it takes 3 days to get to the moon, not 2 seconds.
Now let’s talk about when they land on the asteroid. Simply put: NO NO NO NO NO NO! You do not land a space shuttle on an asteroid like that! First off there is not going to be enough gravity to pull you down like that, and if there was you would have to land with your engines pointed downward, those wings aren’t going to do jack in space. Additionally, space shuttles are not designed to take off horizontally, and even if you were you would have to build a runway on that asteroid first.
Oh and here’s a list of other things, I don’t have time to talk about:
- You can’t bring a gatling gun to space
- The space shuttles are not that spacious.
- Pre-launch is a much longer, much more meticulous, much more grueling experience.
- You turn your engines off once you get to reach orbit.
- Solid Rocket Boosters and the External Fuel Tank jettison much earlier in flight.
- Spinning you Mir to create artificial gravity is legit, but improperly executed.
- Space shuttles do not have room for extra guests in case their space station happens to explode.
- Space stations have multi-man crews.
- Space Stations have escape pods.
- That is not how you refuel a space shuttle.
- You don’t feel any G’s during a slingshot maneuver, or really at any time in space except when the engines are firing.
- They went the wrong way around the moon.
- If the asteroid was as large as depicted it would throw off the moon’s orbit (and possibly the Earth’s).
- Spacecraft are not that maneuverable.
- Lifting surfaces (wings, etc.) are useless in space.
- NASA is not equipped let alone authorized to launch or detonate nuclear warheads.
- The asteroid would be traveling a lot faster than depicted.
- The minimum safe distance for Bruce Willis’s plan is 88 AU, that is, that asteroid would have to bee 88 times the distance from the sun to the earth in order for the asteroid to break up and spread just far enough to avoid hitting Earth.
- There are dozens of better, more efficient, cooler ways to deflect asteroids.
All this goes to show that someone probably should have paid more attention in Physics Class.