This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

12 May 2006

Article on ISDC Presentation from Rusty Schweickart

“Remember, we’re dealing here with a less frequent, but far more devastating Katrina … a Katrina of the Cosmos,” Schweickart reported. “NEOs happen so infrequently that even though they are orders of magnitude more devastating, people don’t naturally make that match,” he told, “but you don’t want to be caught with your pants down.”

At present, the two asteroids on that “keep an eye on them roster” are 2004 VD17 and Apophis, formerly listed as 2004 MN4.

“Extrapolating to 2018 we may have as many as 200 in a similarly elevated attention category and of growing concern to the general public,” Schweickart reported today. “Therefore, it is certainly possible, if not likely, that in the timeframe of the next 12 years we—the world—may well be in a position where we need to take action to insure that we will be able to carry out a deflection mission if needed,” he said.

The Association of Space Explorers (ASE)—the professional organization of astronauts and cosmonauts—has formed a committee on NEOs which Schweickart chairs. Earlier this year, a technical presentation at a UN meeting in Vienna apprised them that this issue was coming at them.

While the UN has been brought the problem, Schweickart said, the ASE is committed to bringing them a solution. This solution will take the form of a draft United Nations treaty—or protocol—formulated in a series of workshops over the next two years.

“In these NEO Deflection Policy workshops we will gather together a dozen or so international experts in diplomacy, international law, insurance, and risk management, as well as space expertise to identify and wrestle with these difficult international issues,” Schweickart noted. “Our goal is to return to the UN in 2009 with a draft NEO Deflection Decision Protocol and present it to them for their consideration and deliberation.”

"Earth-Hitting Asteroids: Katrina From Space"
Leonard David
National Space Society
06 May 2006


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