Ridiculous problems deserve equally if not more ridiculous solutions. If an asteroid is barreling toward the Earth, the only sane answer is to send untrained deep sea oil drillers into space to blow it apart (and not to blow it into smithereens but into two equally sized pieces that will barely miss the planet much like Larry blocking Moe's eye poke). There is almost nothing I'm not willing to buy about the movie Armageddon.
Liv Tyler going 18-years on an oil rig filled with desperate and lonely men and never getting raped. Bought it. Ben Affleck going 18 minutes on an oil rig without being stabbed. Bought it. Super experimental spaceships. The Russian space station with artificial gravity and enough rocket laying around for two spaceships. Slingshotting around the moon. A mole-man like super drilling machine. Bought it. Bought it. Bought it. Bought it. I was fine with landing on an asteroid, drilling on an asteroid, and taking off from an asteroid. Sounded like one hell of a genius/retard plan.
Part of this was because Billy Bob Thornton does a first rate job of making this ridiculous plan sound absolutely plausible, most likely because like so many scientist out there he's a folksy down home kind of scientist. Pretty much Foghorn Leghorn with a degree from MIT. “This here asteroid is what we call in mah neck of the woods a global killer, I sah, I sah.” The plan was fine, the whole blowing up a giant asteroid from the inside is like blowing up your fingers with an M-80, cool with it. It's the execution of the plan and this impossibly huge asteroid that I have a problem with.
Deep Impact hit theaters 2 months before and had a comet that was 6 miles long... How do you make Armageddon better? Make a bigger asteroid. How much bigger? How about the size of Texas. First, the size of Texas (or any state really) is not really an acceptable unit of measurement, that's like saying my house is the size of a 10000 glasses of water. What does an asteroid the size of Texas really mean? Is it as heavy as Texas, the same volume as Texas, as long as Texas? Texas is 790 miles long and 773 miles wide, which would make for one hell of a giant asteroid and really questions how we could miss a small moon heading right for us. I assume the asteroid has the same surface area as Texas, meaning 268,820 square miles. Given the asteroid's spherical shape, it would have a radius of 150 miles or a length of 300 miles. However, the asteroid is more oblong, so it probably has a length of 450 miles with a width of 150 miles. Still a hell of a big asteroid (take that Deep Impact), and that's the problem. The drilling concept was fine, but given the size of the asteroid it would have failed.
Bruce Willis and his rag tag crew only had to drill 800 ft into the asteroid. 800 ft barely cracks the surface of an asteroid hundreds of miles wide. At the most, planting a nuclear device in a hole that shallow would caused a giant crater, but it would not have broken the asteroid apart. The only way this would have worked was if the asteroid was flat and only a few 1000 ft thick, giving it a nice potato chip like outline, or something resembling the Phantom Zone from Superman II.
Which would have completely changed the part when Owen asked what the surface of the asteroid was like from:
Billy Bob: 200 degrees in the sunlight, minus 200 in the shade, canyons of razor-sharp rock, unpredictable gravitational conditions, unexpected eruptions, things like that.
Owen: Okay, so the scariest environment imaginable. Thanks. That's all you gotta say, scariest environment imaginable.
Billy Bob: Image you're on a pancake in the middle of space, cooked to crispy perfection on one side, a little doughy on the other.
Owen: So, the most delicious environment imaginable. That's all you gotta say, the most delicious environment imaginable.
800 ft isn't even very far by oil drilling standards. It's realistic in terms of the amount of time they have to drill, but the world record is around 40000 ft. Why not have them need to drill that far? Why make the drilling the only plausible part of the movie? Might as well drill into it like The Core (another movie that involved traveling to an implausible place and releasing a nuclear blast to save the world). If the audience has suspended enough disbelief to get Bruce Willis to the asteroid, then setting a world record drilling depth isn't asking too much more. Might as well have the spaceship even transform into a giant drill, if you're going to be fantastic, let's get fantastic.
My second problem is that they didn't land in the designated landing sites. Remember that this asteroid is hurtling through space, both rotating and revolving. Meaning that it's crucial to blow up the asteroid at the not just the right time, but in the right location as well. It needs to be at just the right angle of trajectory for the exploded debris to clear the planet (Figure A). Or else all pieces will just crash into the Earth one after another (Figure B). Also the given landing zone might have been the only spots that would split the asteroid in two. Blowing it in the wrong spot could create 3 shards or 10 or hundreds of smaller but still very large asteroid fragments hurtling toward the earth.
So, it might not really be so much a case of bad planning, but piss poor execution that destroys the Earth. In the end, I have no problems with the plan, my problem is that the Armageddon crew didn't pull it off.
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