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Surprising Science

The UN Proposes A Global Asteroid Defense Plan

The plan would allow the world’s space agencies to share information about potentially dangerous asteroids, create a special task group to detect smaller asteroids, and collaborate on ideas for diverting them from Earth.

What’s the Latest Development?

Call it the Asteroid Justice League: Last week the United Nations put forth a plan to bring together space agencies from around the world to solve the challenge of incoming asteroids. If it’s adopted by the General Assembly next month, it will “create an International Asteroid Warning Network so countries can share what they know about asteroids [and] spin up a group of scientists…to look for smaller asteroids, as well as make plans to divert them away from the Earth.” UN official Sergio Camacho-Lara says the time for collaborative action is now: “We will be finding, in the next five, 10 years, another half million or more [asteroids]…[I]t’s a question of finding them before they actually find us.”

What’s the Big Idea?

February’s incident in the Russian town of Chelyabinsk, in which a meteorite impact injured 1,000 people, brought home to the public the dangers asteroids pose to Earth. However, while NASA has found most of those big enough to do serious global damage, there are plenty of smaller ones — greater than 450 feet across — that could take out an entire city given the opportunity. By bringing the world’s agencies together, the UN hopes to maximize the brainpower while spreading out the costs of R&D.

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Read it at NPR


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