WASHINGTON, July 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Congress is considering a bill to establish a commission to study the threat of an asteroid collision with Earth and how to prepare for it, lawmakers say.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is titled, "To establish a United States Commission on Planetary Defense and for other purposes," SPACE.com reported Monday.
The bill is before the Committee on Science and Technology where Rohrabacher is a member.
"We need to take the next step," Rohrabacher said. "I am more confident than ever in our ability to identify potential threats from asteroids and comets, but it is critical to the future of humanity that we develop the capabilities to protect ourselves from those threats."
Rohrabacher's initiative joins a rising tide of interest in asteroids and comets whose orbits bring them close the Earth -- near-Earth objects.
Earlier this year the National Research Council issued a report, "Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies." The Obama administration's recently announced National Space Policy calls for pursuing capabilities "to detect, track, catalog, and characterize near-Earth objects to reduce the risk of harm to humans from an unexpected impact on our planet."
"We know the threats are real," Rohrabacher said. "Earth has been hit many times with devastation ranging from local to regional, and even to planetary scales. It is just a matter of time until the threat appears again, and we must be ready."