A step forward in planetary defense is establishment of a high-level Mission Planning and Operations Group, a body that was strongly advocated during a three-day meeting of experts held October 27-29 at the European Space Agency's European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany.
The Mission Planning and Operations Group (MPOG) workshop was organized by Secure World Foundation, the Association of , and the European Space Agency.
"The workshop was an important and critical milestone in shaping both international attention and solutions to deal with a harmful asteroid that has Earth's address as its delivery point," said Dr. Ray Williamson, Executive Director of Secure World Foundation.
"We were very pleased with the outcome of the workshop and will be supporting follow-on initiatives that further spur needed scientific, technical and policy discussion to establish an international framework for planetary defense," Williamson said.
Planetary DefenseThe workshop brought together for the first time space agencies to discuss the future deflection of a hazardous asteroid, said former shuttle , Tom Jones, Chair of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) Committee on Near-Earth Objects.
"Representatives from NASA and the European Space Agency, facilitated by Secure World Foundation and the Association of Space Explorers, talked substantively about how their programs could be coordinated to gather important planetary defense knowledge about asteroids, what asteroid research is needed to facilitate deflection planning, how space agencies should demonstrate asteroid deflection technologies, and when future planning meetings should take place," Jones said.
Leading international authorities on planetary defense, space situational awareness, as well as orbital debris, along with astronauts and , took part in the workshop. It was the latest in a series of meetings organized to report to the United Nations Action Team-14, a group within the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee established in 2001 for the purposes of addressing the asteroid impact threat.
"The workshop series is focusing on plans and recommendations for global coordination and response in the event that an asteroid or other object is found to pose an impact threat to Earth," explained workshop coordinator, Detlef Koschny from the European Space Agency.
Global warning and technical analysisTaking a leading role in the workshop was Sergio Camacho, space researcher, former Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and now Secretary General of the Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (CRECTEALC).
Camacho assisted in defining future planning tasks and studies for the MPOG that will later be merged with findings of other experts to create a final report to the UN committee. Such a report will recommend how to react to an impact threat from a Near Earth Object, or NEO.
Earlier this year, a workshop organized by Secure World Foundation in coordination with the Association of Space Explorers and CRECTEALC was hosted by the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico City.
Participants in that interdisciplinary workshop considered the challenges and problems that a future Information Analysis and Warning Network (IAWN) would face in providing global warning and technical analysis regarding an Earth-threatening asteroid.
Big first stepThe recently held workshop in Darmstadt, Germany "was a big first step on the operations side, bringing together countries that have experience and can actually execute an asteroid deflection," said ASE's Jones.
"NASA and the European Space Agency both expressed high interest in working together to solve the technical problems ahead, and I hope they will be joined by the many other space agencies with their additional talents and resources," Jones said.
ASE's international community of space fliers, Jones added, "applauds the agencies' participation in MPOG, and looks forward to assisting in getting the message out that global cooperation can take on this very preventable natural hazard."