NASA Illustration: Collecting a sample from Bennu

Recent headlines have contained lots of asteroid-nuking talk. Theres a team of Russian scientists zapping mini asteroids in their lab, and supposedly NASA is thinking about a plan that would hypothetically involve nuking Bennushould it threaten Earth in 2135.

Its true that NASA is drafting up ideas on how one might nuke an incoming asteroid, a theoretical plan called HAMMER, or the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response, as weve reported. But scientists probably wont need to use such a response on the Empire State Building-sized asteroid 101955 Bennu, which is set to pass close to Earth in 2135. Diverting such a threat could be much, much easier.

Even just painting the surface a different color on one half would change the thermal properties and change its orbit, Michael Moreau, NASAs OSIRIS-REx Flight Dynamics System Manager, told Gizmodo. That would involve literally sending a spacecraft to somehow change the color of some of the asteroid.

Theres lots we dont know about asteroids just yet, which is why NASA has sent the probe OSIRIS-REx toward Bennu. This mission aims to scoop up and return a sample of the rock in 2023....