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International Space Agencies Group Formed for Defence of Earth

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(LPAC)—On Feb. 6 and 7, the European Space Agency will host the first meeting in Darmstadt, Germany of the Space Mission Advisory and Planning Group, which was established as mandated by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The purpose of the organization is to coordinate capabilities and expertise internationally to formulate a strategy for defending the Earth from near-Earth objects. For the first time, space agencies from Africa and Asia will be involved, along with the Americas and Europe. ESA is expecting more than 30 representatives from 13 space agencies, seven government ministries, and the UN.

The new group is tasked with recommending specific projects related to asteroid threats, including basic research and development, impact mitigation procedures (dealing with disasters), and to "develop and refine a set of reference missions that could be individually or cooperatively flown to intercept an asteroid," said Detlef Koschny, from ESA. It will coordinate with the International Asteroid Warning Network, under the UN, which is supposed to coordinate the hunt for near-Earth objects. While clearly not the level of initiative that is necessary, it is a start, recognizing the seriousness of the threat, and involving space agencies from around the world. [mgf]