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In 2001, a rag-tag group of countries and organizations got together to form a crack NEO Action Team.
Mandated to "Improve the international coordination of activities relatedto near-Earth objects"1,
The A-Team 14 writes papers and has discussions and dreams one day
of some sort of implementation of a Asteroid Mitigation theory.2


1. The Action Team on Near-Earth Objects was established in response to recommendation 14 of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) and was given the following terms of reference:
(a) Review the content, structure and organization of ongoing efforts in the field of near-Earth objects (NEOs);
(b) Identify any gaps in the ongoing work where additional coordination is required and/or where other countries or organizations could make contributions;
(c) Propose steps for the improvement of international coordination in collaboration with specialized bodies.
19 Countries:
– Australia, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Kingdom, United States of America
9 Organisations:
– Association of Space Explorers (ASE), European Space Agency (ESA), Committee of Space Research (COSPAR), International Astronomical Union (IAU), National Space Society, Space Generation Advisory Council, European Space Science Committee, European Science Foundation, SpaceGuard Foundation

Action Team 14 Work Plan
2009
– Continue annual reporting on NEO activities and inter-sessional work in preparation for the 2009 theme which will include an update on NEO missions and draft procedures related to threat handling at the international level
– Review and update Interim Report
• 2010
– Continue with drafting (or agree) international procedures for threat handling and review progress with international cooperation and collaboration on observations
– Review and update Interim Report

Index of Online A/AC.105/C.1/ Documents of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee(PDF)

Scientific and Technical Subcommittee: Online Reports

United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER)

Fifty-sixth Session

Report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on its forty-sixth session

Interim report of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects

Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response

Interim Report 22 February 2007


"IX. Near-Earth objects
136. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 63/90, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee considered agenda item 11, “Near-Earth objects”, under the amended multi-year workplan adopted by the Subcommittee at its fortyfifth session (A/AC.105/911, annex III). Pursuant to the workplan, in 2008, international organizations, regional bodies and others active in the field of near- Earth object research were invited to report to the Subcommittee on their activities. 137. The representatives of Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation and the United States made statements on the item.
22 A/AC.105/933
138. The Subcommittee heard the following scientific and technical presentations:
(a) “Asteroid-comet impact hazard problem: recent developments in Russia”, by the representative of the Russian Federation;
(b) “Near-Earth object observation program”, by the representative of the United States; (c) “NEOSSat: the near-Earth objects surveillance satellite”, by the representative of Canada;
(d) “French activities related to Apophis”, by the representative of France;
(e) “The Large Millimeter Telescope”, by the representative of Mexico;
(f) “Dealing with the threat to Earth from asteroids and comets”, by the observer for IAA;
(g) “Asteroid threats: a call for a global response”, by the observer for the Association of Space Explorers (ASE);
(h) “Assessment of the proposal, by the Association of Space Explorers International Panel on Asteroid Threat Mitigation, on the theme ‘Asteroid threats: a call for a global response’”, by the observer for IAF.
139. The Subcommittee had before it the following documents:
(a) Note by the Secretariat on information on research in the field of near- Earth objects carried out by Member States, international organizations and other entities (A/AC.105/926);
(b) Interim report of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects (2008-2009)
(A/AC.105/C.1/L.298).
140. The Subcommittee noted that near-Earth objects were asteroids and comets with orbits that could cross the orbit of planet Earth. The Subcommittee also noted that the interest in asteroids was largely fuelled by their scientific value as remnant debris from the inner solar system formation process, the potentially devastating consequences of such objects colliding with Earth and the possession of a wide range of natural resources.
141. The Subcommittee noted that early detection and precision tracking were the most effective tools for the management of threats posed by near-Earth objects. In that regard, the Subcommittee noted with satisfaction that a number of international teams in various countries were currently searching for, investigating and cataloguing near-Earth objects and that new partnerships were emerging among national space agencies and research institutions to enhance those efforts.
142. The Subcommittee noted with satisfaction that a number of institutions were investigating possibilities for mitigating the threats posed by near-Earth objects. The Subcommittee also noted that any measures to mitigate such threats would require coordinated international efforts, as well as increased knowledge of the properties of near-Earth objects.
143. The Subcommittee noted with satisfaction that the ASE International Panel on Asteroid Threat Mitigation had prepared a report on the theme “Asteroid threats: a call for a global response”.
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144. The Subcommittee noted that some member States had implemented or were planning to implement fly-by and exploration missions to near-Earth objects. The Subcommittee also noted past and upcoming missions investigating near-Earth objects, including: the Dawn, the Deep Impact and the Stardust spacecraft of the United States; the Near Earth Object Surveillance Satellite of Canada; and the Marco Polo near-Earth object sample return mission of ESA; and the Hayabusa near-Earth object sample return mission of Japan. The Subcommittee also noted that a number of international projects and initiatives, such as the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS), the Large Millimeter Telescope, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and the Pulkovskaya Observatory, took advantage of potential dual-use facilities to advance detection and characterization capabilities.
145. The Subcommittee noted the significant progress achieved by the United States in reaching its target of detecting 90 per cent of all near-Earth objects greater than one kilometre in diameter. The Subcommittee noted that the United States had determined that fewer than 150 of the 825 near-Earth objects with a diameter greater than one kilometre could pose a collision hazard with Earth. The Subcommittee further noted that the United States was seeking to achieve, by 2020, its target of detecting, tracking, cataloguing and characterizing 90 per cent of objects with a diameter greater than 140 metres.
146. The Subcommittee agreed that efforts to detect, track and characterize near- Earth objects should be continued and expanded at the national and international levels.
147. Pursuant to paragraph 15 of General Assembly resolution 63/90, the Subcommittee, at its 709th meeting, on 16 February, reconvened its Working Group on Near-Earth Objects under the chairmanship of Richard Crowther (United Kingdom). The Working Group on Near-Earth Objects held four meetings.
148. At its 716th meeting, on 20 February, the Subcommittee endorsed the report of the Working Group on Near-Earth Objects (see annex III)."


"Annex III
Report of the Working Group on Near-Earth Objects
1. Pursuant to paragraph 15 of General Assembly resolution 63/90, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, at its forty-sixth session, reconvened its Working Group on Near-Earth Objects. The Working Group held three meetings, from 16 to 18 February 2009, under the leadership of the Chairman, Richard Crowther (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), and one meeting on 20 February 2009, under the leadership of the Acting Chairperson, Creena Lavery (United Kingdom).
2. In accordance with the multi-year workplan under the item on near-Earth objects (NEOs) (A/AC.105/911, annex III), the Working Group considered: (a) Reports submitted in response to the annual request for information on NEO activities and intersessional work;
(b) Review of policies and procedures related to the handling of the NEO threat at the international level and drafting of international procedures for handling the NEO threat;
(c) Activities undertaken within the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 to raise awareness of the NEO threat;
(d) The updated interim report of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects (2008-2009) (A/AC.105/C.1/L.298).
3. The Working Group had before it a note by the Secretariat on information on research in the field of near-Earth objects carried out by Member States, international organizations and other entities (A/AC.105/926).
4. The Working Group noted with satisfaction the work of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects, as reflected in the interim report of the Action Team (A/AC.105/C.1/L.298).
5. The Working Group noted that the work accomplished on NEOs in the intersessional period had resulted in important contributions to international cooperation in that area. The Working Group also noted that international conferences such as the conference entitled “Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids”, to be held in Granada, Spain, from 27 to 30 April 2009, and the conference entitled “Asteroid-Comet Hazard 2009”, to be held in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, from 21 to 25 September 2009, provided opportunities to raise awareness among decision makers about the NEO threat and to promote further cooperation.
6. The Working Group noted that international cooperation and coordination in improving the Apophis ephemeris was important for obtaining a better understanding of the threat to Earth posed by the Apophis asteroid. The Working Group also noted that the period leading up to 2012 presented the best opportunity to make preparations for carrying out international activities in that regard. 7. The Working Group heard a statement by the observer for the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) on the work carried out by ASE in furthering the
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intersessional work of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects under the item, in accordance with the multi-year workplan of the Working Group.
8. The Working Group agreed that the report of ASE served as a good basis for advancing the implementation of the workplan of the Working Group to continue drafting, and seek agreement on, international procedures for handling the NEO threat. In that context, the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects held four meetings during the forty-sixth session of the Subcommittee to discuss and review the report of ASE on the theme “Asteroid threats: a call for a global response”. On the basis of those discussions, the Action Team prepared a conference room paper entitled “Draft recommendations for near-Earth objects threat mitigation”
(A/AC.105/C.1/2009/CRP.13), for consideration by the Working Group.
9. The Working Group agreed that the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects should continue the intersessional work, under the multi-year workplan, to further review and develop draft recommendations for the international response to the threat of NEO impacts, for consideration by the Working Group at the forty-seventh session of the Subcommittee, in 2010. In that context, the Working Group encouraged member States to participate in the intersessional work on NEO and submit their contributions to the chairman of the Action Team.
10. At its 4th meeting, on 20 February 2009, the Working Group adopted the present report."


United Nations General Assembly
Committee on the Peaceful, Uses of Outer Space, Fifty-second session, Vienna, 3-12 June 2009
Report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on its forty-sixth session, held in Vienna from 9 to 20 February 2009

Source Document

"E. Mitigation
33. Mitigation in this context is the process of either negating or minimizing the impact hazard posed to Earth by the sub-class of NEOs called potentially hazardous objects, through some form of intervention or interaction with the risk body, or by minimizing its impact on the population through evacuation or a similar response.
34. The European Space Agency (ESA) has supported industrial and academic research studies on NEOs in the past. Those activities made it possible to identify a project enabling Europe to make a significant yet realistic contribution to international efforts to assess the NEO hazard. The result of that analysis was the Don Quijote NEO technology demonstration mission, currently being defined by European industrial teams. As a response to the call by the Council of Europe for ESA to take an active role in the assessment of the NEO impact hazard, several scientific and technical assessments were conducted. These were immediately followed by parallel mission feasibility studies, whose outcome was assessed by the Near-Earth Object Mission Advisory Panel of ESA, an independent panel of recognized experts on various aspects of the NEO problem, which was set up by ESA for that purpose. In accordance with the recommendations of the Panel presented in July 2004, work focused on the Don Quijote mission concept, which consists of two elements: a SMART-1-class, mini-satellite asteroid orbiter and a modified upper stage serving as an asteroid impactor. The orbiter, called “Sancho”, would rendezvous with a small, 500-metre near-Earth asteroid and study it before the arrival of the impactor, called “Hidalgo”, which would hit it at a very high relative speed. The Sancho orbiter would observe the impact and its results, especially the resulting deflection in the asteroid’s trajectory. Suitable launch opportunities for the first element, the orbiter, will begin in 2011. The impactor could be launched four or five years later, which would allow for an independent or 10
A/AC.105/C.1/L.295
staged development of the two mini-satellites. The choice of the launch vehicle and the suitable launch windows largely depends on the selection of the target asteroid, which will be revisited by the Panel in the coming months. The mission has a modular architecture, two separate small spacecraft and the possibility of an independent asteroid “surface package”, which would facilitate its implementation in the context of a cooperative project.
35. ESA recognizes that the efforts of major space agencies are now heading in similar directions and are reaching the critical mass needed to attain concrete developments with respect to space missions. Preparatory activities have enabled ESA to gain a good understanding of the key issues of a realistic NEO technology demonstration mission and have placed it in a good position to explore a way to benefit from this convergence of interests or, at least, to establish an opportunity partnership with another agency with the aim of identifying cost-sharing and/or programmatic advantages.
36. With respect to observatory missions, the ESA Near-Earth Object Mission Advisory Panel noted that improvements in the performance of the existing surveys and, in particular, plans for larger facilities, had led to a dramatic increase over the past few years in expectations for NEO discovery from the ground. The Panel concluded that 80-90 per cent completeness for H<20.5 bodies (roughly 300 metres in size) could be achieved within the next decade without a space observatory. The Panel therefore recommended that the case for a space-based NEO observatory be reconsidered in 10-15 years, after the residual hazard from NEOs that are not accessible by ground-based surveys had been better defined.
37. On the other hand, the ESA Advisory Panel recognized that the current lack of precise knowledge of the physical characteristics of NEOs would be a critical limitation, should a potential impactor be identified. It therefore concluded that rendezvous mission concepts were of significantly higher priority in terms of risk assessment and mitigation than the observatory mission concepts. The Panel also pointed out that given the variety of objects already known, it was improbable that any rendezvous mission would investigate an NEO identical to the next impactor. It therefore stressed the importance of a precursor mission concept aimed at determining all the relevant quantities – size, density, internal structure, momentum transfer, etc. – required to conduct an actual mitigation mission.
38. In February 2007, the Working Group on the Asteroid-Comet Impact Hazard was established in the Russian Federation. Most governmental, research and educational organizations in the Russian Federation are involved in the activities of the Working Group. The Working Group is shortly to present a national programme on the asteroid-comet impact hazard problem, which will include detection and remote characterization, orbit determination and cataloguing, consequence determination and mitigation at both the international and local levels. 39. The Institute of Planetary Research of DLR, in cooperation with the Dresden University of Technology, is investigating potential techniques for diverting asteroids and comets and is developing a tool that can determine an optimal deflection strategy for a given impactor. Various potential techniques for diverting asteroids and comets from a collision course with the Earth have been investigated and modelled. In the course of that work, a software package to simulate a possible impact scenario and to determine an optimal deflection strategy has been developed. 11
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The formation of craters and associated effects of asteroid or comet impacts on the Earth, both on continents and on oceans, are currently being analysed in a theoretical study involving advanced computer modelling and simulations. 40. The Institute of Planetary Research has also proposed the establishment of a German Spaceguard Centre, which, like its existing counterparts in the United States (the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) and the United Kingdom (the NEO Information Centre), should act as a link between research activities and the general public, convey scientific information in understandable terms to the public and Government departments, and be prepared to support policymakers in administering German participation in international activities in relation to the impact hazard and NEO mitigation plans. This proposal has been considered by the authorities in DLR and a decision on establishing the Centre is pending.
41. The United Kingdom funds a number of activities related to the mitigation of the NEO hazard. The objective of the work conducted at the University of Glasgow is to develop fundamental optimal control theory and apply it to the interception of hazardous NEOs. The study has been moving along two parallel paths. The first is the global optimization algorithms for an interplanetary trajectory. The tools that have been developed are used to generate a number of possible trajectories to intercept NEOs. Future work will develop more accurate models of the static and dynamic properties of asteroids in order to study how those properties might influence or even invalidate certain deviation methods. Assessments of other deflection methods, such as the gravity tractor and the Yarkovski effect, will continue.
42. The Action Team noted with interest the recent report of NASA to the United States Congress, as requested by Congress in its 2005 NASA Authorization Bill, to analyse possible alternatives that NASA could employ to divert an object on a probable collision course with Earth. In that study, the NASA team assessed a number of approaches that could potentially be used to divert an NEO on a predicted collision course with Earth. The approaches are roughly divided into two categories: “short impulse” options, where the diversion energy is applied in a near instantaneous event; and “slow push” options, where the energy is applied over an extended period of time. Important factors that require consideration in determining the most effective techniques are: how much lead time the option requires or, in other words, how much time would be available from detection of an impact threat until the collision event, commonly referred to as “warning time”; how difficult it would be to reach the threatening object (which is mostly a function of its orbital path relative to the Earth’s); physical characterization of the threatening object; and how much energy resource would be required to apply an effective amount of force to the threatening object.
43. According to the findings of the NASA study team, the most promising short impulse techniques were found to be the use of a stand-off nuclear device, in particular for larger objects and especially when warning times were only a few years, and the kinetic energy impactor. Both techniques make use of relatively mature technology, almost all of which has been demonstrated at least in scenarios similar to interplanetary space missions, and could be packaged into effective systems placed on interplanetary trajectories with current lift capabilities. 12
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44. A variety of slow push techniques were presented to and analysed by the NASA study team. However, almost all of the techniques are technically immature (some are only preliminary concepts) and would have very limited application with respect to the NEO threat unless warning times allowed mission durations of many years or decades of diversion force application. The only viable slow push techniques for further study were the space tug, which would attach to the threatening object and change its trajectory with high-efficiency propulsion systems, and the “gravity tractor”, which has the potential to alter the course of an object using the gravitational attraction of a spacecraft station keeping in close proximity to the object. Both techniques could be effective in scenarios that require only small increments of velocity change (millimetres per second) and that concern relatively small objects (less than 200 metres in the largest dimension). However, the space tug would require more detailed characterization of the object, more robust guidance and control and surface attachment technologies that are not available in the near term.
45. The Action Team noted that the analysis by NASA of deflection options covered only relatively large NEOs and did not consider the precision needed during a deflection to avoid the potential of placing the NEO on a return impact trajectory.
46. The Action Team noted, overall, that in addition to the probability of impact and time to impact, the other parameters that would influence the response strategy were the anticipated intersect locus on the surface of the Earth and the vulnerability of that area to the impact. The different options for deflection and the implications of a particular deflection strategy – technical readiness, political acceptability, cost of development and operation, translation of intersect locus – will also have to be weighed up in relation to the alternatives. The Action Team acknowledged that it was possible that a specific impact might threaten non-space-faring nations only. It might be considered more attractive for one capable actor to take the lead in mounting a particular deflection mission rather than a grouping of entities with different roles, owing to the complexity of the mission and the political expediency of protecting sensitive technical information. The Action Team therefore envisaged a matrix of options setting out agreed responses to a range of impact scenarios and identifying actors to perform specific roles. In that respect, the Action Team identified the need for an international technical forum, where a range of probable impactor scenarios could be determined and a corresponding matrix of mitigation options to respond to a specific threat could be developed to a level of maturation that would permit reliable mission timelines to be drawn up with a corresponding decision timeline for the international community."

United Nations - General Assembly
Committee on the Peaceful
Uses of Outer Space
Scientific and Technical Subcommittee
Forty-fifth session
Vienna, 11-22 February 2008
Item 12 of the provisional agenda*
Near-Earth objects
Source