Feeds

UN urged to prep for non-fiction Deep Impact

One day, the asteroids will come

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Asteroid impacts on Earth are an unfortunate inevitability. And while devastating impacts are extremely rare in terms of a human lifespan, the destruction they can potentially cause is far greater than more familiar natural disasters.

International efforts have rallied to address threats such as global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and the like, but if a 45-meter-wide chunk of rock comes to pay Earth a visit, humanity really doesn't have a cohesive response plan.

The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) wants to correct this potentially world-threatening oversight. The ASE's Committee on Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and its international Panel on Asteroid Threat Mitigation will today introduce recommendations for global response to the United Nations.

"For the last four and a half billion years, the Earth has been bashed by asteroids orbiting our Sun, and it's time for that to stop," said Russell Schweickart, US Chairman of the ASE-NEO Committee. The group announced the completion of its two-year effort at the Google Foundation offices in San Francisco.

Russell Schweickart

The ASE notes that in the next 10 to 15 years, new telescopes will help discover hundreds of thousands of asteroids that are presently insufficiently detectable. Many of these may have the potential to impact Earth.

If faced with such a threat, humanity now has ways to prevent or limit the damage. The ASE asserts that whether the solution is diverting the object or even evacuation of the impact site — the key to a successful outcome is preparation, planning and timely decision-making.

"Until we have a response in place, we're as vulnerable as the dinosaurs," said Schweickart.

The ASE's report and recommendations - titled "Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response" - will be introduced in the 2009 sessions of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. From there, the group hopes to gain input, support, and agreement from the international community before being implemented within the framework of the UN.

The ASE report calls for three functions for effective NEO impact prevention or disaster responses.

First, the group suggests an information, analysis, and warning network be established. The network will use current or new research institutions to analyze NEO orbits to identify potential impacts. It should also establish criteria for issuing NEO impact warnings.

Second, the group recommends a mission planning and operations group that will coordinate the expertise of space-faring nations. The group would assess the current global capability to deflect a hazardous NEO by identifying the required technologies and drawing out potential courses of action. In response to a specific threat, the group would use the plans to prepare a deflection campaign.

Finally, it recommends the UN oversee the first two functions through an inter-government group. That group would also develop policies and guidelines to responding to impact hazards.

Schweickart said the ASE isn't suggesting the UN do the space missions itself. That, of course, would be left in the hands of capable space-faring countries - analogous to the UN's oversight of peacekeeping forces. Nor does preparing for potential NEO threats demand massive funding.

"What we're missing is someone to assume responsibility," he said.

A summary of the ASE's report can be found here (PDF warning). The group plans to release the full report after it's introduced the UN subcommittee in February 2009. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.