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.

10 November 2010

Article on recent meeting in Europe on Mission Planning and Operations Group (MPOG): Continued discussion on global coordinating group for planetary defense

Article from Leonard David on the recent meeting to discuss the proposals for a global Mission Planning and Operations Group (MPOG) at the European Space Agency's European Space Operations Center on October 27-29, 2010. Selections from the article...

To help focus a world-class planetary defense against threatening near-Earth objects, the space experts are seeking to establish a high-level Mission Planning and Operations Group, or MPOG for short.

Veteran astronauts and space planners gathered here at the European Space Agency's European Space Operations Center Oct. 27-29 to shape the asteroid threat response plan and establish an Information Analysis and Warning Network.

While the technical issues – early warning and deflection – are challenging, they essentially pale in comparison with the very sticky issues that will confront the community of nations when they have to make a collective decision to act on an actual threat, Schweickart told [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]

"This really has to be a collective decision," Schweickart said, "since, in the deflection process, there will be a trail of nations across which the impact point moves as we shift it off the Earth."

The space agencies in the MPOG workshop grappled with the questions of what would have to be performed and how they would do it, Schweickart said, "either as the 'designated hitter,' as it were ... or collectively in some way. These are difficult geopolitical challenges, and the workshop provided the first face-to-face setting for many of the space agencies to grapple with it together."

The workshop touched upon a number of strategies to deflect an incoming object, but there was also discussion of using a "physics package," space slang for a nuclear bomb if need be. There remains a good deal of discussion over which deflection strategy best serves the planet and humankind – if time is on our side.

In a post-workshop handout, the attendees concluded that:

- A Mission Planning and Operations Group should be established.

- The MPOG should identify to space agencies the technical issues involved in planetary defense, to take advantage of synergies between human exploration, science, and study of the NEO hazard.

- The MPOG should propose research themes in NEO deflection for use by space agencies, addressing those areas most critical for effective deflection strategies.

- There is great value in finding hazardous NEOs early, to reduce the costs of deflection missions. Early detection would require upgraded NEO search and tracking capabilities.

The results of the workshop will be folded into the ongoing work of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in its sessions next spring and summer. This will all come together as a set of recommendations or procedures that will be put before the U.N. General Assembly in about a year.

Link: article

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