Global space agencies to join in asteroid defense planning

Jan. 31, 2014 at 5:14 PM
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PARIS, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency says it's joining an effort to coordinate a global response should a threatening asteroid ever be found heading toward Earth.

With a mandate from the United Nations, the ESA and other space agencies around the world will establish a high-level group to help coordinate expertise and capabilities for missions aimed at countering asteroids that might one day strike Earth, a release from the agency's Paris headquarters said Friday.

National space agencies from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa will establish the expert group aimed at getting the world's space-faring nations on the "same page" when it comes to reacting to asteroid threats, the ESA said.

Dramatic proof of the need for such action came on Feb. 15, 2013, when an unknown space object exploded high above Chelyabinsk, Russia, with 20-30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

The ESA said it will join the Space Mission Planning and Advisory Group (SMPAG -- pronounced "same page") established by a technical forum with a mandate from the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The first-ever meeting will be hosted by ESA February 6-7 at its operations center in Darmstadt, Germany.

"SMPAG will ... develop and refine a set of reference missions that could be individually or cooperatively flown to intercept an asteroid," said Detlef Koschny of ESA's Space Situational Awareness program office.

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