A test to see if space boffins can save Earth from a massive asteroid strike has found… we’re doomed.
Space chiefs admitted existing technology was powerless to prevent a catastrophe, even with six months’ notice.
Although they failed to stop the collision in the few days they worked on the exercise, they said a nuclear weapon might be able to knock the rock off course – which Bruce Willis and pals do in the 1998 movie Armageddon.
During the exercise at a UN conference, scientists were told a fictional asteroid had been spotted 35million miles away.
The only realistic response would be to evacuate an area, possibly a whole continent, they decided.
Lindley Johnson, Nasa’s planetary defence officer, said: "Each time we participate in exercises of this nature we learn more about who the key players are in a disaster event and who needs to know what information and when."
SpaceX boss Elon Musk said Earth’s weak defence system was "one of many reasons why we need larger and more advanced rockets".
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It came as an unmanned Chinese rocket entered our orbit, prompting fears it could smash into the planet.
Space experts have criticised China's space agency as a 20-tonne "Long March" booster could reportedly crash into Earth almost anywhere between New York and southern Chile.
The Long March 5B rocket carried the 22.5-metric-ton Tianhe module into a stable earth orbit on Thursday, April 29.
But the massive rocket is now itself in a deteriorating orbit around the earth and, according to some ground observers, is tumbling out of control.
The Long March is designed, unlike most expendable rocket first stages, to attain orbital velocity along with its payload.
That means its re-entry is less predictable.
After a previous use of the Long March core stage, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine criticised China’s space agency.
He said: "It was seemingly a successful launch until we started getting information about a reentry of a rocket body, a reentry that was really dangerous.
"It flew over population centres and it reentered Earth’s atmosphere," he added. "It could have been extremely dangerous. We’re really fortunate in the sense that it doesn’t appear to have hurt anybody."
Among the pieces of debris from that launch that survived re-entry was a metal pipe over 30 feet in length. A re-entry just 30 minutes earlier, says NASA, could have resulted in debris landing on U.S. soil.
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