[meteorite-list] United Nations Takes Aim at Asteroid Threat to Earth

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sun, 16 Feb 2014 13:54:28 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <201402162154.s1GLsSd6013162_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


United Nations Takes Aim at Asteroid Threat to Earth
By Leonard David,
12 February 2014

As the anniversary of last year's surprise Russian meteor explosion nears,
a United Nations action team is taking steps to thwart dangerous space
rocks, including setting up a warning network and a planning advisory
group that would coordinate a counterpunch to cosmic threats.

A global group of experts on near-Earth objects (NEOs) met in Vienna Feb.
10 to11 for the 51st session of the United Nations' Scientific and Technical
Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Space.

The meeting came just a few days before the one-year anniversary of the
Russian meteor impact. On Feb. 15, 2013, a 65-foot-wide (19 meters) space
rock detonated without warning over the city of Chelyabinsk, injuring
more than 1,200 people and bringing home the reality of the asteroid threat
to much of the world. [Photos: Russian Meteor Explosion of Feb. 15, 2013]

The plans the experts discussed have taken shape over a decade of work
by the UN Action Team on Near Earth Objects, known as Action Team 14.
AT-14 was established in 2001 and has crafted a roster of recommendations
for an international response to the asteroid impact threat.

Worldwide response

Establishing an International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) is considered
to be a critical step in collecting and sharing information about potentially
hazardous NEOs.

In the event that an Earth-threatening space rock is detected, the UN
Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Space could help to facilitate a spacecraft
mission intended to deflect that object from its collision course with
Earth, experts say.

The primary purpose of a Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG)
 pronounced "same page" - is to prepare for a worldwide response to a
NEO threat through the exchange of information, development of options
for collaborative research and mission opportunities, and to conduct NEO
threat mitigation planning activities.

Major step forward

"My personal 'achievement of the year' is already done," said Detlef Koschny,
head of the NEO segment within the ESA/ESTEC's Space Situational Awareness
Program office in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

ESA hosted on Feb. 6-7 the first official meeting of the SMPAG at the
European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, Detlef told SPACE.com.
"And we now do have a group established, with a first idea on the work
plan for the future!"

Still, there's more work to do.

"All participants still have to go back home and get the terms of reference
formally approved, but we have a final version of the document...the 'draft'
has disappeared," Detlef said. "This is a major step forward for this
planet to be able to defend itself from a possible asteroid impact threat."

Essential: Coordination and cooperation

The creation of the SMPAG was reported to the Action Team-14 at the UN
meeting in Vienna "and welcomed by all participants," said Gerhard Drolshagen,
also of the NEO segment in Noordwijk.

"The formation of this group is seen to come at the right time, and SMPAG
membership will certainly grow quickly," Drolshagen told SPACE.com.

"It was emphasized by several participants in the Committee on the Peaceful
Uses of Space that the NEO threat concerns everyone and international
coordination and cooperation is essential in this field," Drolshagen said.

The next SMPAG meeting will be held in Vienna this coming June. Participants
will focus on the exchange of information on relevant activities in the
field of NEO hazard mitigation and on the future work plan.
Received on Sun 16 Feb 2014 04:54:28 PM PST

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