Reviewing “Armageddon:” From the Perspective of Science

The film’s theatrical poster

Armageddon is a 1998 American science fiction film which follows a group of core drillers and geologists sent by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to destroy the colossal asteroid heading towards the Earth, as it is speculated to destroy the whole planet.

            In a span of 18 days, the asteroid will have its direct collision to the Earth. Troubled and horrified, NASA suggested that they should destroy the asteroid before it hits the planet. They devise a plan to deflate the asteroid by planting a nuclear bomb in its surface, believing that it will blow the asteroid into pieces. Astronauts, geologists and drillers should be sent to outer space to do the job.

Harry Stamper, a known oil driller was called by NASA to accompany other astronauts and drillers to head towards the asteroid for their mission: to save the planet Earth. For the mission, specially-designed shuttles, Freedom and Independence, were launched into space. As they trail toward the asteroid belt, the unfortunate Independence was struck by an asteroid. The remaining shuttle Freedom landed on the huge asteroid. However, it landed on the part of the asteroid somehow made of metal which made drilling nearly impossible.

The drilling machine experienced mechanical problems and blasted off. By a stroke of saving grace, Lev Andropov kept another drilling machine and the members managed to drill the hole where they will plant the nuclear bomb. NASA Head Dan Truman ordered that a crew member should stay at the asteroid to activate the bomb. AJ, one of the crew members, was chosen to do the job but Harry did it in his stead.  As the Freedom shuttle heads back to earth, Harry revealed his last message to his daughter Grace, also a crew member of the expedition. Getting rid of hesitations, Harry finally gave his blessing to lovers Grace and AJ. After the parting messages, Harry activated the bomb and the asteroid exploded, saving the earth from full annihilation.

The Freedom shuttle returned to earth and the remaining crew members were hailed as heroes. The members of the expedition who died for the mission were also commemorated as heroes and lauded for a job well done.


Indeed, “Armageddon” is a critically-acclaimed movie and undoubtedly a box-office hit as it starred famous Hollywood actors. However, numerous scientific inaccuracies were deeply embedded in the film. In fact, NASA itself found 168 inaccuracies. Though the film incorporates fictional elements, some scientific flaws were still worthy of identification.

The first flaw is attributed to the gravity on the outer space. As what I have observed, when the crew landed upon the asteroid, no signs of gravitational changes occurred all throughout their stay. It seems that the asteroid’s gravity is similar to that of the Earth. It is really impossible. The Earth’s gravity greatly differs from the gravity in the outer space.

The second flaw is attributed to the shape of the asteroid. As what I have read in astronomy books, all asteroids are oddly-shaped and rough with some craters in it. In other words, it has an irregular shape. The asteroid in the movie seems to be impossible. To add more insult to injury, drilling a hole in the asteroid and making it explode is not an effective plan. It will only create more asteroid debris and somehow, these will enter into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The third flaw is attributed to the noise in space. The film depicted noisy explosions in space. Space is a vacuum, right? Sound waves cannot travel in a vacuum. Therefore, it is impossible to “make some noise” in outer space, especially loud explosions.

The third flaw is attributed to the fire in space. The film depicted scenes of fiery explosions. The problem here is the presence of oxygen in space. In creating a fire, you must need oxygen because the chemical reaction involves oxidation. There is really no oxygen in space, so how could these fiery explosions happen? Maybe one will argue that a star is a huge fire ball in space but let us bear in mind that these fire balls were only caused by thermonuclear reactions combining hydrogen and helium atoms. But as a “non-star,” it is difficult to create fire in outer space.

The fourth flaw, and the last on the list, is attributed to the shuttle which landed on the asteroid. It is merely impossible for a shuttle to land on an asteroid because of its irregular shape, and if they could, it is uneasy for the shuttle to leave. But as what I have observed, the Freedom shuttle took only a matter of minutes to “leave” the asteroid.

There you have it. There are some others which I noticed but if I were to enumerate all of them, time and space would constrain me. The film received a handful of nominations from the Academy and Saturn Awards for its intelligent use of visual effects and sound mixing; also, the film’s production is outstanding and well-thought. However, as a huge fan of astronomy, I think it should have been more helpful if the movie, in its entirety, came together with science. Just like the others, the outer space stirs an interest within me as I wonder in awe how vast the universe is. Nonetheless, watching Armageddon has been a two-hour break from the seemingly monotonous life here on Earth.


2 thoughts on “Reviewing “Armageddon:” From the Perspective of Science

  1. I agree with this. I think that most (if not all) sci-fi movies have scientific inaccuracies (e.g. Deep Impact, The Core, Star Trek). But I think Sagan’s Contact is different and more scientifically accurate (my favorite!).

    Can you write a review of it (Contact)? 😀

    1. Sure, I’ll write a review about it. Thanks for your comment. By the way, I find your poems interesting. Read some of them yesterday. ‘Nonsense’ and ‘Sublime Cats’ are two of my favorites. I wish you all the best. 🙂

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