Bruce Willis, Savior of the Earth?

Armageddon-Bruce-Willis-1One of my favorite movies, ranked up there with Die Hard series, The Matrix and Finding Nemo (don’t judge me, jerk!) is Armageddon. Not because it has a substantial lineup of awesome actors, or because it’s a lot of action packed into 151 Minutes, but mostly because of this one fact:

NASA shows the film as part of its management training program. Prospective managers are asked to find as many inaccuracies in the movie as they can. At least 168 impossible things have been found during these screenings of the film.

Really? How awesome is that. NASA uses the film to gauge the competency of its managers-in-hire using a Hollywood movie, AND states there are 168 IMPOSSIBLE things; not Improbable, but 100% “it can’t be done” impossible. So what are some of the key points and how bad are they actually?


spoiler-alert


The asteroid headed for Earth, that Bruce’s character will eventually blow up, is stated to have a destructive power of the equivalent of 10,000 nuclear bombs.

First, what kind of nuclear bomb? There’s lots of candy to choose from, but let’s go for broke here and bet it all on red. The former Soviet Union “Tsar Bomba” currently holds the title of the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated, at a blast yield of 57 megatons. Something that big, traveling that fast, MUST do more damage – the laws of physics wont allow it to gracefully touchdown at anything LESS than 80 MILLION megatons of energy!

The asteroid originated from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter

WOW, really? The largest object in the Asteroid belt is Ceres, a dwarf planet most people have never heard of. Ceres is almost 1000km across, but this asteroid headed to kill us all? It’s noted to be “The size of Texas”, which is 1400km across at the widest points. You’d think a dwarf planet sized asteroid is something we would have observed. It’s also frequently mentioned to be made of near solid iron, so that would mean that our buddy has an estimated weight of 14 million million million tons. Physics to the rescue again – an object that massive would require so much energy to be knocked out of orbit, that the bigger threat would’ve been that object that hit it, not the asteroid itself. Which leads us to the next part..

They land on the Asteroid, and it looks like hell, with spikes and jagged sheer cliffs and what not..

Sort of true, however rolling back to the previous problem, an asteroid that massive, which when it was stated in the movie that it’s actually a piece of a larger asteroid that broke off from this collision and then headed for Earth, well, just wouldn’t look like that. Most of the energy output from the initial collision in the asteroid belt would’ve melted this little guy, and since there would’ve been no large enough gravitational force acting on it, would’ve formed into a near perfect sphere (or something akin).

The type cast Russian Peter Stormare begins to spin the Russian space gas station to give the boarding party “Gravity”.

OK, how difficult would it be for you to parallel park on a marry-go-round? Pretty damn difficult right? Well, the same thing would happen in space, but then you have a pesky 3rd dimension to deal with, so yeah, docking a spinning space station? Possible, but waaaaaaay too difficult to do. Then, Well, let’s dive deeper into this whole situation. Gravity by centripetal force is a funny thing. Yes, you would feel the “gravity”, but it wouldn’t be like what you’re currently feeling right now. The farther outwards from the center of the station you are, the more force being acted upon you. Since those shuttles that just docked with a spinning Russian space gas station are on the outside, the force acting on them would be substantial. Where Ben Afleck is at the center, he’d be floating, since the center of a spinning object has no relative motion, you’d be floating by the lever that broke off in typical falling apart Russian Mir fashion.

Drilling into an Asteroid to detonate a nuke to split it, at most 4 hours before impact (aka. “The point of no return”)

Well, remember how they were beating into your head how massive this thing is? Yeah, remember that because their plan wouldn’t affect that big bitty so much as an impact of a single photon hits the side of the Empire State building. The Earth is 6400km across. This asteroid is 1000km across. At the point of detonation, each half would have to be accelerated to 1600km/hour, and they manage to do it with only one single unspecified sized nuke? Come on guys, it would take over one BILLION nukes of average size to do that, all detonating within one nanosecond of each other.

But wait, there’s more, call now and get an improbable depth! They need to drill 800 feet, as quoted in the movie, right? Well, that’s roughly the thickness of a human hair on a soccer ball, in comparative sizes, so, even if they detonated, it would still lose almost all it’s energy into space, or as the guy who came up with the plan in the NASA briefing room stated, it would “just burn your hand”.

The space shuttles and other space vehicles – what were they thinking?!

OK, short form point notes on this one, and I’ll leave most of the detective work up to you.

  • The X-71 is made of impenetrable titanium hull, yet Ben Afleck’s character manages to shoot his way out of the inside of the damaged ship..
  • There was a gun attached to a space vehicle
  • The shuttles are shown banking and maneuvering like jet fighters, in an environment with no air.
  • Characters are running around the ship, but 10 feet away from them outside characters require thrusters to keep from flying off the low gravity asteroid.
  • The explosive force of the bomb detonated would’ve obliterated the shuttle, since the now destroyed asteroid is flinging shrapnel at you faster than you can fly away.
  • How did they fly away in the same environment that was so damaging to them on entry, which destroyed one of the “impenetrable” shuttles?
  • The drilling rigs dig a hole at a 45 degree angle – adding an additional 320 feet of rock to drill through to reach their minimum depth of 800 feet.
  • They launched two shuttles at night, a few hundred feet apart, at the same time.. (REALLY?!!)
  • The maximum speed a space shuttle can reach is 30,000km/h but these X-71’s managed to reach multiple times that speed.
  • Mir had substantial amounts of liquid oxygen on board.

Jeff Wilton

Jeff is the founder and owner of Everyday Science Stuff. ESS is a one man operation, with the core belief that all education should be served without crippling debt tuition, without revenue generating ads and without any restrictions of any kind such as paywalls, forced login and account creations, geographical restrictions, and so on.

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