In 1998, moviegoers bought tickets to see yet another disaster movie about the end of the world. The film was Armageddon, earning more than $500 billion worldwide. Comets and asteroids were already national topics of discussion because of a comet called Hale Bopp, visible in the night sky for more than 18 months from 1995 to 1997. Hale Bopp was estimated to be about the size of Texas and would not be hitting earth as it passes by on its 2,000 + year orbit around the sun.
But what if one day, a comet similar to Hale Bopp appeared in the night sky and was going to hit the earth? Armageddon caught NASA off guard because the public was aware of a real threat, not a science fiction storyline. The actions taken by characters in the movie were, at that time, still science. However, behind-the-scenes astronomers struggled with finding solutions to a real “armageddon” that was proven all too possible when Hale Bopp passed by. To be clear, NASA was already working on solutions when Armageddon came out.On December 27, 2012, NASA shared plans to capture an asteroid and land on it by 2025. At the time, the year 2025 was still far off in the future. Fast forward to summer 2022 to a NASA mission that sent spaceships to an asteroid and moved its orbit, proving it could be done. The 2022 mission took place 24 years after Armageddon showing us that sometimes science fiction gets the future right.