Role: Harry S. Stamper
A massive meteor shower destroys the orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis and bombards a swath of land around the North Atlantic, devastating New York City. NASA discovers through the Hubble Space Telescope that the meteors were debris propelled from the asteroid belt by a rogue asteroid roughly the size of Texas, christened “Dottie” by its discoverer. The asteroid will collide with Earth in 18 days, causing a second extinction event. NASA scientists, led by Dan Truman, plan to trigger a thermonuclear detonation at least 800 ft (244 m) inside the asteroid to split it in two, driving the pieces apart so both will fly past the Earth. NASA contacts Harry Stamper, considered the best deep-sea oil driller in the world, for assistance. Harry insists he will need his full team to help execute NASA’s plan, and they agree to help but only after their list of unusual rewards are met.
NASA plans to launch two specialized Space Shuttle orbiters, the X-71s, Freedom and Independence, to increase the chances of success; the shuttles will refill with liquid oxygen from the 11-year-old Russian space station Mir (which is modified to have artificial gravity by rotating on itself) before making a slingshot maneuver around the Moon to approach the asteroid from behind. NASA puts Harry and his crew through a short and rigorous astronaut training program, while Harry’s team re-outfit the mobile drillers, “Armadillos”, for the job. During training, Truman and Harry are skeptical about the abilities of A.J. Frost, a hot-headed drill operator who has been dating Harry’s daughter Grace against Harry’s wishes.
The destruction of Shanghai by a meteorite forces the government to reveal the asteroid’s existence, as well as their plan. The shuttles are launched and arrive at the space station, where its sole cosmonaut Lev Andropov helps with refueling. A major fire breaks out during the fueling process, forcing the crews, including Lev, to evacuate in the shuttles before the station explodes. The shuttles perform the slingshot around the Moon, but approaching the asteroid, the Independence’s engines are destroyed by trailing debris, and it crash-lands on the asteroid. Grace, aware A.J. was aboard the Independence, is traumatized by this news, believing he was killed. Unknown to the others, A.J., Lev, and “Bear” (another of Harry’s crew) survive the impact and head towards the Freedom target site in their Armadillo.
Freedom manages to land on the asteroid, but overshoots the target zone, landing on a much harder metallic field than planned, and their drilling quickly falls behind schedule. The military initiates a backup plan they call “secondary protocol”, planning to remotely detonate the weapon at the asteroid’s surface, despite Truman and Harry’s insistence that it would be ineffective. Truman delays the military, while Harry convinces the shuttle commander Colonel Willie Sharp to disarm the remote trigger. Harry’s crew continues to work, but in their haste, they accidentally hit a gas pocket, blowing their Armadillo into space and losing another man. As the world learns of the mission’s apparent failure, another meteorite decimates most of Paris.
All seems lost until Independence’s Armadillo arrives. With A.J. at the controls, they reach the required depth for the bomb. However, flying debris from the asteroid damages the triggering device, requiring someone to stay behind to manually detonate the bomb. The crew draw straws and A.J. is selected. As he and Harry exit the airlock, Harry rips off A.J.’s air hose and shoves him back inside, telling him that he is the son Harry never had and gives his blessing to marry Grace. Harry contacts Grace to bid his final farewell. After some last minute difficulties involving both the shuttle engines and the detonator, the Freedom moves to a safe distance and Harry triggers the detonation while his life flashes before his eyes. The bomb successfully splits the asteroid, avoiding the collision with Earth. Freedom safely returns to Earth, and the surviving crew is treated as heroes. A.J. and Grace get married, with photos of Harry and the other lost crew members present.