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NASA urged to consider planet 'defense'

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WAX2001022210 - 22 FEBRUARY 2001 - WASHINGTON, D. C. USA: A NASA slide depicts the catastrophic collision of a massive comet or asteroid with earth 250 million years which appears to be the reason 90 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of all land vertebrates abruptly died out. rw/D. Davis/ Nasa UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/db10c87c687495388108721bc477b4bf/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
WAX2001022210 - 22 FEBRUARY 2001 - WASHINGTON, D. C. USA: A NASA slide depicts the catastrophic collision of a massive comet or asteroid with earth 250 million years which appears to be the reason 90 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of all land vertebrates abruptly died out. rw/D. Davis/ Nasa UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- NASA should establish a Planetary Defense Coordination Office to lead efforts should the Earth be threatened by asteroids and comets, a U.S. report says.

The report, by the Ad-Hoc Task Force on Planetary Defense of the NASA Advisory Council, offers suggestions on how the agency should prepare to lead national and international plans for defending Earth from collisions from near-Earth objects, SPACE.com reported Tuesday.

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"This was a very important step in the process of the United States government defining its role in protection of life from this occasional, but devastating natural hazard," former astronaut Russell Schweickart, co-chairman of the task force, said.

"Happily, in the instance of asteroid impacts, this is a natural disaster which can be prevented ... only, however, if we properly prepare and work together with other nations around the world."

The task force, led by Schweickart and fellow former astronaut Thomas Jones, included members from academia, a space research institute and NASA itself.

The "driving philosophy" behind the national and international defense against near-Earth objects, the report said, should be to "find them early."

Early detection is paramount in mounting an effective and cost-effective planetary defense effort, the report said.

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