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NEO News (09/25/08) Managing the Impact Hazard

Status Report From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Friday, September 26, 2008

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After a two-year study involving a cast of international experts in government and science, the Association of Space Explorers Committee on Near-Earth Objects has completed a proposal to encourage the international community to set up procedures to protect the Earth from future asteroid impacts. The Executive Summary of Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response was released today (September 25) at a press event in San Francisco. The press kit and a copy of the Executive Summary are enclosed as a pdf file.

The study recommends that a global, coordinated response by the United Nations to the NEO impact hazard should ensure that three logical, necessary functions are performed:

1. An Information, Analysis, and Warning Network should be established. This network would operate a global system of ground- and/or space-based telescopes to detect and track potentially hazardous NEOs. The Network, using existing or new research institutions, should analyze NEO orbits to identify potential impacts. The Network should establish criteria for issuing NEO impact warnings.

2. A Mission Planning and Operations Group, drawing on the expertise of the space-faring nations, should be established and mandated to outline the most likely options for NEO deflection missions. This group should assess the current, global capacity to deflect a hazardous NEO by gathering necessary NEO information, identifying required technologies, and surveying the NEO-related capabilities of interested space agencies. In response to a specific warning, the group should use these mission plans to prepare for a deflection campaign to prevent the threatened impact.

3. The United Nations should exercise oversight of the above functions through an intergovernmental NEO Threat Oversight Group. This group would develop the policies and guidelines that represent the international will to respond to the global impact hazard. The NEO Threat Oversight Group should establish impact risk thresholds and criteria to determine when to execute a NEO deflection campaign. The NEO Threat Oversight Group would submit recommendations to the Security Council for appropriate action.

At the press event, former astronauts Rusty Schweickart and Ed Lu noted that two of the three elements needed to respond responsibly to the impact hazard, involving surveys and development of deflection technologies, are already underway at some level. Their emphasis is thus on the third element, an international decision-making process to manage to complex political-technical issues of how to respond to impact threats of various levels. It is this third essential element of defending the Earth that this study hopes to initiate.

Presskit

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