New Space and Tech

UNOOSA Report: Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defence

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
April 8, 2023
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UNOOSA Report: Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defence
UNOOSA Report: Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defence

Forging global partnerships and building resilient societies through better coordination are among the key challenges of the twenty-first century.

Given the global consequences of a near-Earth object (NEO) impact and the considerable resources required to prevent a collision, the United Nations, through its Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), has been involved in the international discourse and dialogue on the topic of NEOs, raising awareness and promoting global cooperation.

Addressing such a hazard, including the identification of objects that pose a threat of impact to Earth, and planning a corresponding mitigation campaign, require cooperative action in the interest of public safety on the part of the global community.

Acting as a gateway to space in the United Nations system, UNOOSA is uniquely positioned in intergovernmental cooperation and coordination on outer space activities, and in the broader perspective of space security, including the area of planetary defence. The Office supports and cooperates with two entities established in 2014: the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG).

These two entities came into being through a series of recom- mendations for an international response to the threat of near-Earth object impact, endorsed by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and ultimaly recommended by the General Assembly. The aim of these recommendations is to address the global challenge posed by NEOs, beginning with their detection and tracking and, subsequently, deflection and planetary defence.

The goal is to ensure that all countries, in particular developing nations with limited capacity for predicting and mitigating a NEO impact, are aware of potential threats as well as to guarantee an effective emergency response and disaster management in the event of a NEO impact. As this area is crucial to ensuring human security, the United Nations continues to facilitate the processes for developing an international response to a NEO-impact threat, with the Office for Outer Space Affairs playing an active role.

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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.