The United Nations is adopting a plan to defend the world against threatening asteroids. The decision came after recommendations by former astronauts, including Ed Lu, who argued that the planet needs to be defended against potential rogue asteroids.
Lu used the Chelyabinsk meteor as an example, explaining that the world’s space agencies only found out about the impact from Twitter and YouTube, just like the rest of us.
In response, The Scientific American reports that the UN will set up an “International Asteroid Warning Group” for member nations to share information about potentially hazardous space objects.
The UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will coordinate missions should astronomers detect a hazardous asteroid. The mission will launch a spacecraft to collide with the asteroid and alter its course away from Earth.
Scientists say that there are about one million near-Earth asteroids that could pose a threat to the planet, notes Wunderground. However, only a fraction of these objects have been located by astronomers. Lu, a former NASA astronaut, added that there about 100 times more asteroids in space than have ever been located.
Lu believes that “our challenge is to find these asteroids first, before they find us.” After a week of deliberations between the UN and several distinguished astronauts and cosmonauts, the International Asteroid Warning Group was founded. Lu already co-founded an organization in 2002 called B612 Foundation.
The foundation is developing a privately built infrared space telescope, called the Sentinel Space Telescope, to locate threatening asteroids. The telescope could be launched by 2017 and would help space agencies identify threatening near-Earth asteroids, like the one in Chelyabinsk, years before they pose a threat.
The advance warning is key to giving government and space agencies time to take action against the asteroid. Lu and his colleagues supported the plan to deploy at least one spacecraft, depending on the rock’s size, to collide with the asteroid and send it on a safer course. The panel added that the technology to do this already exists, but they want the UN involved to avoid nationally biased action should an emergency happen.
On e the Sentinel telescope is online, it will begin a systematic search for potentially hazardous asteroids. Meanwhile, the Association of Space Explorers asked the United Nations to coordinate a practice asteroid deflection mission to test the technology out.
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