More Public Attention in Europe for Strategic Defense of Earth
February 17, 2013 • 10:41AM

Friday's spectacular events—the meteorite shock wave in Chelyabinsk, Siberia predominantly, because of its direct effect on human beings, and the flyby of asteroid 2012 D14—have triggered a stream of articles in the German and European media, who fall over themselves to report on the European Space Agency's NEOShield (Near Earth Objects) program, launched a year ago. This is a three-year program to investigate ways to better monitor potentially dangerous objects in space, ways of concrete counteraction, and to provide data for the respective political decisions for funding such programs.

The nature of such programs is such that necessarily, the space agencies of the world have to cooperate in that effort, Peter Hintze, Germany's chief space coordinator, said in an interview with today's Rheinische Post news daily.

In cooperation with the Space Situational Awareness center in Darmstadt, Germany, NEOShield is carried out by about ten scientists at research centers in Germany (Bremen and Friedrichshafen), France (Toulouse and Les Mureaux) and England (Stevenag). All respective programs are underfunded, however, which the scientists hope will change now, after yesterday's sudden worldwide wake-up call. NEOShield has only EU5.8 million in funding, the Darmstadt center, which is to work out an early warning system, was to receive EU74 million this year but only got EU44 million.

Chief coordinator of NEOShield is Alan Harris, director of the Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, who told the media yesterday that many space-based observatories will be required to guarantee an in-depth monitoring of space and to locate dangerous objects in time to act. Harris and other scientists have pointed out to the media, that had asteroid 2012 D14, which was discovered only a bit more than a year ago, been heading for a collision with Earth, it would have been too late to act, and effective counteraction, most likely through diverting it off-course, would have required at least three years

Also yesterday's Interfax report, on Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin's renewed urgent call for the United States to cooperate on the asteroids threat, is widely reported in the media, such as this quite prominent coverage in Britain's Guardian: "President Vladimir Putin and the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed about the incident, and Putin convened a meeting with the head of the emergency situations ministry. It's proof that not only are economies vulnerable, but the whole planet, Medvedev said at an economic forum in Siberia. "Dmitri Rogozin, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister and former ambassador to NATO, took to Twitter to call for an international push to create a warning system for all objects of an alien origin... Neither the U.S. nor Russia had the capability to bring down such objects, he added."