U.N. eyes international asteroid warning network

JIJI

A U.N. panel has recommended the establishment of an international warning network for the early detection of asteroids and comets that could hit Earth.

A subcommittee of the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space also proposed late last month the creation of an advisory group that would discuss countermeasures when such crashes are predicted.

The recommendation was made in a final report on a meeting of the COPUOS’s Scientific and Technical Subcommittee in Vienna that ended on Feb. 22. The U.N. General Assembly is expected to adopt the recommendation later this year.

COPUOS Chairman Yasushi Horikawa, a technical counselor of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, said the recommendation followed years of discussions and was not motivated by Russia’s meteorite impact last month.

The international warning network would allow institutions that discover and monitor potentially hazardous asteroids and comets to work together.

It would also recommend criteria and thresholds for notification of an emerging threat while cooperating with national and international agencies to plan response activities for potential events, including evacuations.

The proposed advisory group would be set up by U.N. member states that have space agencies, including Japan, the United States, Russia, China and several European nations.

The advisory group would also lay out options and timelines for space missions that could include diverting the orbits of Earth-bound asteroids and comets away from the planet.

“Some measures, such as evacuation of residents, may be taken if preparation to some extent is possible,” Horikawa said.

However, he remained concerned about the ability of diverting orbits of Earth-bound asteroids by using spaceships.

Horikawa also noted that while the Earth has suffered catastrophic asteroid and comets strikes before, he believes the probability of future crashes is lower than that of massive earthquakes and tsunami occurring.