A lot of folks in the field of astronomy are worried about asteroids. Right now, space agencies and scientific groups around the world are working up plans for asteroid defense. NASA wants to wrangle the space-faring stones and mine them for metals and water. The EU wants to hurl suicidal spacecraft at them. There's even a private enterprise that wants to deflect them with swarms of mini satellites and lasers.
None of this cuts the mustard in the eyes of the United Nations. The problem, it seems, is not that the UN deems these strategies unworthy. It's more a problem of duty. As it stands now, no entity, governmental or otherwise, has an explicit mandate to save our hides when doom starts raining down. Given the extinction-level scenario depicted in the image above, they'd all probably try to save the world. But they don't have to. Not good enough.
That's why the UN General Assembly has voted to approve a series of planet-saving, asteroid-deterring measures. Beginning with the creation of an “International Asteroid Warning Group,” the UN hopes, through committee, to save the world. Seriously. Dubbed the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, this UN group will coordinate a mission to hurl heavy spacecraft at asteroids, saving us all.
The proposition was put forward by former astronaut Ed Lu, a member of a group called the Association of Space Explorers (ASE). Though their name might sound a bit like some nerdy version of the Super Friends, Lu and the gang are dead serious:
“There are 100 times more asteroids out there than we have found. There are about 1 million asteroids large enough to destroy New York City or larger. Our challenge is to find these asteroids first before they find us.” — Ed Lu
A million isn't one of those numbers you can just ignore once you've heard it, and Lu has garnered support from not only the UN, but all across the scientific community. He's also putting his money where his mouth is, developing his own asteroid-spotting telescope: Sentinel. Maybe, just maybe, we'll all have Ed Lu and his anti-asteroid campaign to thank for our survival some day. Here's hoping that it doesn't come to that for quite some time.