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U.N. backs network to monitor near-Earth objects

Kyodo

The U.N. General Assembly has approved a plan to monitor near-Earth objects through an international network and alter their trajectories to prevent impact, people familiar with the plan said Sunday.

The plan will allow countries to respond jointly for the first time to threats posed by near-Earth objects through a U.N.-led plan. So far, most studies on dealing with asteroids and lunar and Martian meteorites have been conducted individually.

The General Assembly approved the plan after Yasushi Horikawa, technical counselor of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and chairman of the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), presented it to the U.N. on Oct. 22.

A meteor that flew over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region in February has spurred calls for international collaboration to monitor and deal with near-Earth objects more effectively.

Japan is considering how to participate in the plan, which was compiled early this year by Vienna-based COPUOS.

The plan involves the creation of an International Asteroid Warning Network that would link astronomical observatories and radar facilities around the world to ensure the discovery, tracking and observation of near-Earth objects.

If a credible impact threat is discovered, the IAWN would ensure that information on the object is gathered expeditiously and inform COPUOS and other bodies.

The plan also envisages establishing a Space Missions Planning Advisory Group comprising space-faring nations that would consider measures to alter the trajectories of such objects via rockets and unmanned space probes.

But because countries use radar technology to monitor satellites and other objects around Earth for military and scientific purposes, they may find it difficult to reach a consensus on how much information to share with the envisaged network.