Operation HAMMER may sound like the villain's master scheme from a Roger Moore-era James Bond film, but it's actually NASA's plan to deal with asteroids threatening the Earth—such as one the size of the Empire State Building that could crash into the planet in 2135, Staten Island Live reports. NASA says the asteroid, known as Bennu, has a one in 2,700—or 0.037%—chance of striking Earth in September of that year. While that's not a very good chance—“Please don’t print that an asteroid is going to crash into Earth," a NASA aerospace engineer tells the Washington Post—that hasn't stopped NASA from putting together a contingency plan: Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response.
Details of operation HAMMER were revealed in a recent study by NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration published in Acta Astronautica. One possibility is sending a 9-ton spacecraft to smash into Bennu, redirecting it out of Earth's orbit. A more likely possibility sees NASA detonating a nuclear device on Bennu, Armageddon-style. However, there's no current plan for HAMMER to become a reality. "We're doing these design studies to prepare ourselves, so if we do find a threatening object, we're better prepared to deal with it," the aerospace engineer tells the Post. But Gizmodo reports there could be an easier way to deal with Bennu: splash part of it with solar radiation-absorbing paint. A NASA spacecraft is currently on year two of its journey to collect a sample from Bennu. (Read more asteroid stories.)