The firm Elecnor Deimos Space held a conference at Tres Cantos, near Madrid, May 7-8, inviting experts from several European countries and from ESA's Space Situation Awareness (SSA) program, to discuss the status of anti-asteroid programs and the need for intensified international cooperation. The Chelyabinsk meteorite hit on Feb. 15, was referenced as a "game changer," and scientists voiced their hope that it will call more attention to the necessity of not only monitoring such space objects but also developing the means to deter or destroy them, before they could hit the Earth. SSA spokesmen said they hope to develop the capability to integrate European assets like automated telescopes into a coordinated and more efficient Near Earth Objects (NEO) system. A system like this would be able to provide nightly sky surveys and advanced warning of NEO impacts.
"A great deal of work remains to be done, for example, in computer modeling of impact effects, how airbursts differ from ground strikes, kinetic versus explosive deflection strategies and much more," says Gerhard Drolshagen, of the SSA Program Office. "The aim is to develop plans that will guide us in current and future NEO research and development." "With this, we can work with our partner agencies, scientists, industry and international bodies like the UN to offer firm options to national governments and political decision-makers," says Nicolas Bobrinsky, head of ESA's SSA Program. "Events like the Chelyabinsk strike show that the NEO hazard is not just theoretical, and we need to invest in practical measures today to address tomorrow's threats."
"It's important that we become aware of the current and future position of NEOs, develop estimates on the likelihood of impacts and assess the possible consequences," says Detlef Koschny, head of NEO activities in the agency's SSA Program Office. "More importantly, we must consider whether and how warning, mitigation and possible deflection actions can be taken. It's important not only for Europe, but for the rest of the planet, too."