The threat of a massive meteor crashing into the planet and endangering the future of mankind is not just the basis of a Hollywood movie script like this year's movie "Asteroid vs Earth."
The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space believes there is a real danger to civilization from the threat of deadly asteroids, especially since a big one slammed into Russia last year, according to Space.com.
Now a special U.N. consulting team researching near-Earth objects (NEOs) has recommended the creation of an International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) to provide an early alert system to nations if a hazardous NEO or a meteor shower was hurtling towards Earth.
The network would act as a sort of central bank for information provided by scientific organizations around the world which discover and track asteroids, resulting in timely warnings of potential impacts.
Meanwhile, the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG), consisting of scientists from leading international space agencies and other organizations, is preparing for a future meteor crash.
The main goal of the group is to come up with a plan to deflect or avoid the meteor, just like in the B-movie "Asteroid vs Earth,"
starring Tia Carrere and Robert Davi.
The asteroid that crashed in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February last year, made the space nations sit up and take notice of the potential danger of a large rock hitting earth at thousands of miles an hour, possibly in a worst-case scenario — knocking the planet off its axis and out of its orbit.
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In December 2013, the U.N. General Assembly "welcomed, with satisfaction, the recommendations for an international response to the near-Earth object impact threat," Space.com reported.
And in June this year, a conference of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) meeting, discussed the NEO threat in detail.
"A few more agencies joined, and we can now say that we have all major players in the space scene onboard the SMPAG, so that's great progress," Detlef Koschny, the European Space Agency's NEO segment manager in the Netherlands, told Space.com.
"We have agreed on what to do next. Defining criteria on when to start thinking about a possible deflection mission is one of the points. This is not easy," Koschny said.
The most important information SMPAG needs to obtain is the location of the impact and an estimate of the potential damage, along with the minimum number of people who would be imperiled for a deflection plan to be activated, said Space.com.
"But these things are hard to know," Koschny said. "They depend on the composition of the object, which often is not known, and needs very precise orbit computations. These are things we have started addressing."
Tom Jones, a former NASA astronaut and head of the Association of Space Explorers' Committee on Near-Earth Objects, is representing the United Sates on the UN's NEO team.
The ASE group, consisting of people who have been to space, released a report in 2008 entitled "Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response," which was drawn up to help the international community avert the loss of life and property from a meteor hitting Earth.
"Because NEO impacts represent a global, long-term threat to the collective welfare of humanity, an international program and set of preparatory measures for action should be established," the report said, according to Space.com.
Jones said that NASA has been working with the Pentagon to release information from spacecraft that notice blazing bolides and fireballs in the Earth's atmosphere.
"Nearly 20 events have been posted to date," Jones told Space.com, adding that NASA's Near Earth Object Observation Program is getting data on bolide and fireball events "based on analysis of data collected by U.S. government sensors."
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