Scientists Gathering To Discuss NEO Threat Mitigation
May 8, 2013

Scientists Gathering To Discuss Asteroid Threat Mitigation

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Scientists around the world are meeting in Spain this week to talk about the threat asteroids pose to Earth.

Deimos Space, an industrial partner working for the European Space Agency's (ESA) Space Situational Awareness (SSA) program, has invited researchers from universities, research institutes, national space agencies and space industry professionals to discuss Near-Earth Object (NEO) threat mitigation and effects. NEOs are asteroids that have paths that could potentially guide them into Earth.

“A great deal of work remains to be done, for example, in computer modeling of impact effects, how airbursts differ from ground strikes, kinetic versus explosive deflection strategies and much more,” says Gerhard Drolshagen, of the SSA Program Office. “The aim is to develop plans that will guide us in current and future NEO research and development.”

ESA said it hopes to develop the capability to integrate European assets like automated telescopes into a coordinated and more efficient NEO system. The space agency said it hopes a system like this would be able to provide nightly sky surveys and advanced warning of NEO impacts.

“With this, we can work with our partner agencies, scientists, industry and international bodies like the UN to offer firm options to national governments and political decision-makers,” says Nicolas Bobrinsky, Head of ESA´s SSA Program. “Events like the Chelyabinsk strike show that the NEO hazard is not just theoretical, and we need to invest in practical measures today to address tomorrow´s threats.”

In February, a large meteor streaked over the Russian skies, shattering windows and injuring about 1,000 people. The meteor caused a stir in media and speculation with scientists about what would have happened if it had crashed in a larger populated area.

“It´s important that we become aware of the current and future position of NEOs, develop estimates on the likelihood of impacts and assess the possible consequences,” says Detlef Koschny, Head of NEO activities in the Agency´s SSA Program Office. “More importantly, we must consider whether and how warning, mitigation and possible deflection actions can be taken. It´s important not only for Europe, but for the rest of the planet, too.”

There are more than 600,000 known asteroids in our Solar System, and 10,000 of those are considered NEOs due to their orbits. NASA is even joining up with Congress in hopes of creating a plan to be prepared for the next large NEO collision with Earth.