International Space Agencies Group Formed for Defense of Earth

On Feb. 6 and 7, the European Space Agency will host the first meeting in Darmstadt, Germany of the Space Mission Advisory and Planning Group, which was established as mandated by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The purpose of the organization is to coordinate capabilities and expertise internationally to formulate a strategy for defending the Earth from near-Earth objects. For the first time, space agencies from Africa and Asia will be involved, along with the Americas and Europe. ESA is expecting more than 30 representatives from 13 space agencies, seven government ministries, and the UN.

The new group is tasked with recommending specific projects related to asteroid threats, including basic research and development, impact mitigation procedures (dealing with disasters), and to “develop and refine a set of reference missions that could be individually or cooperatively flown to intercept an asteroid,” said Detlef Koschny, from ESA. It will coordinate with the International Asteroid Warning Network, under the UN, which is supposed to coordinate the hunt for near-Earth objects. While clearly not the level of initiative that is necessary, it is a start, recognizing the seriousness of the threat, and involving space agencies from around the world.

Russia Will Look for Lessons in China’s Yutu Lunar Rover Problems

In a similar vein of developing international space relations, contrary to the Obama administrations shutdown of NASA capabilities, we have a brief story on Russian-Chinese space cooperation.

The Voice of Russia carried a very thoughtful article yesterday which reports Russian scientists’ possible explanations for China’s lunar Jade Rabbit rover’s problems, commenting that whether the rover wakes up or not in a week, at the end of the lunar night, the mission is a success. Spacecraft that are sent to the Moon, the articles states, “must be designed, built, and equipped so as to meet tricky lunar realities.” Although information on the rover so far is “scarce,” Russian scientists will be analyzing what happened to see if they need to make any adjustments to the Russia Luna-Glob mission, up-coming in 2016.

Anything could be to blame, the scientists commented. Dr. Igor Mitrofanov, from the Institute of Space Research, counseled that the Russian craft will be wrapped in a space multilayer blanket to be kept warm, radiation-resistant material must be used to minimize damage, and critical systems should be duplicated (have a back-up) to protect them from cosmic rays. Lunar dust can be “treacherous,” sticking to solar panels and clogging equipment, he said, and, if possible, ways should be found to keep the dust off critical equipment.

The lander “appears to be OK,” the article reports, and will conduct the first-ever astronomy from the surface of the Moon.

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