By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Astronauts, cosmonauts (Russian astronauts), and United Nations members recently met in New York to discuss the first ever international emergency plan for defending Earth against asteroids.
Together, the ex-astronauts from the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) and the UN formed an International Asteroid Warning Group that will alert humanity if a dangerous rock is seen hurtling towards the planet. A special spacecraft would then launch to knock the asteroid from its doomsday course.
Edward Lu, a former NASA astronaut and co-founder of the B612 Foundation asteroid defense organization, says, “Our challenge is to find these asteroids first, before they find us.”
B612 is currently developing the Sentinel Space Telescope which can locate potentially life-threatening asteroids, and they hope to launch it by 2018.
“No government in the world today has explicitly assigned the responsibility for planetary protection to any of its agencies,” said Rusty Schweickart, B612 Foundation co-founder and legendary Apollo 9 member. “NASA does not have an explicit responsibility to deflect an asteroid nor does any other space agency.”
So, it certainly seems like a good idea to figure this all out ahead of time!
Because it takes so long to put together the technology and resources needed to push an asteroid away from a collision course with Earth, ASE members are coordinating with the international community to prepare far ahead of time. In fact, Schweickart jokes, “If we don’t find it until a year out, make yourself a nice [drink] and go out and watch.” Basically, we’d be toast!