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UN Plans Asteroid Response Framework 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the where's-bruce-willis dept.
chrb writes "The Association of Space Explorers, a non-profit group of people who have completed at least one Earth orbit in space, has presented a report to the United Nations titled Asteroid Threats: A Call for Global Response. The UN will now meet in February to discuss the issue and try to define a global political framework for dealing with asteroid-based threats to the Earth."
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UN Plans Asteroid Response Framework

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  • hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @10:41PM (#25984189)

    Will this be like the original, where if you lose a city then it's gone, or the newer version where you can rebuild a city if you blow up enough asteroids? Also, how are we going to get the east and west to cooperate? Will they only shoot down asteroids that come down on their side of the screen? What if they split up and some come onto our side? Oh, the political decisions...

    • what happens if we need to shoot through our own defences to destroy the aliens though? Oh wait, this is more like missile command not space invaders, my mistake.
    • by siddesu (698447)

      While at that, why not consider throwing in another coupla trillions and develop an extension to enable the defenders to also shoot down the aliens that undoubtedly hide among the asteroids.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The real heroes are the guys (and gals) with the calculators.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      The real heroes are the guys (and gals) with the calculators.

      Sure, but you'll only see them in the credits just before they run the copyright notices. Hollywood is like real life -- nobody cares what it took for the star character to finish the job, because it's all about looking cool, sipping martinis, and driving aston martins. Q just got a few witty one-liners, but otherwise it was a 12 hour work day and no vacation to keep the james bonds of the world well-stocked in disposable tech.

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      Heh.. most of the time we can't even get a weather forecast right, except as very rough probabilities, and that's our own atmosphere. Even the objects we know about in LEO have huge margins of error at to where they'll land, with paths hundreds of miles wide, and THOUSANDS of miles long (given that small variances in pitch have large effects at speed). The only chance we really have is to intercept these objects long before they become a definite threat. And that's assuming we even see them. It's incred

  • by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @10:56PM (#25984297)
    I hope it has less holes in it than the .NET Framework....ohhhhh :P No time to apply patches to that thing hehehe.
  • by rigelstar (243170) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @10:57PM (#25984303)

    I hope this will protect us against comets that have a chemical composition of less than 1.5% the normal level of cyanogen found in normal comets as well as asteroids.

  • by actionbastard (1206160) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @10:58PM (#25984317)
    Fifties and Sixties Civil Defense initiatives, 'Duck and Cover' isn't going to cut it.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:00PM (#25984329) Homepage Journal

    It's all well and good to have a bunch of people talking together, but at the end of the day, the UN is utterly useless, and ultimately, the world's going to come looking for the USA for a way out, and then the Americans will quietly ask the British what they think, the French will chime in with their opinion whether anyone likes it or not, and after that brief bit of backchannel talking, the USA will wind up doing something that Europe hailed in private and condemned in public, except for the British, and their people will bitch about the Americans do it, not because its wrong, but they will insist that the British would have done it better had they still had their empire.

    • by bensafrickingenius (828123) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:20PM (#25984465)
      And no doubt the UN will soon impanel a subcommittee which will spend millions of US dollars to generate a report condemning the US for causing this Asteroid crisis...
      • Head in the sand much?

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Head in the sand much?

          How is his head in the sand? His remark indicates that his head is clearly not in the sand and that he's been paying attention.

          Your head on the other hand...

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by TapeCutter (624760)
        Yeah, the jokes on the UN 'cause the US will just print more dollars. /ducks
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ruvim (889012)
      In result, USA solution will be using Russians, hired cheap off the Russian military, using old Soviet technology...
    • by symbolset (646467) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @02:44AM (#25985683) Homepage Journal

      I'm sure that if an asteroid wiped out the capital of some tinpot dictator that the UN would respond. They would have no trouble building enough consensus to write the Oort cloud a stern letter.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by kubitus (927806)
      US or UN?

      if you look closely the US isn't doing too well recently!

      without Russian supply ships the ISS is cut off. deficit spending not only the state but the whole country.

      And -I tell you confidently - there are more ways to skin a cat than the US way.

      • "And -I tell you confidently - there are more ways to skin a cat than the US way."

        Yes, but our ways have the biggest boobs!

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:00PM (#25984331)

    Should funding be broken down by %population of the world, or %landmass occupied? However, I see this as "make the US pay for it". If a non-planet killing asteroid is targeting a nation which has not contributed to the fund/program, should we defend it? The security system on my house doesn't protect my neighbor's, (although my tax dollars which pay for the police, do.).

    • by retech (1228598)
      We can always offer a refund if you're in the spot that got hit.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you think it should be based on percent of GDP, you'll be happy, because it is.

      And yes, that means that the EU (taken as a group) gives more to the UN in dues than the US.

      All of this ignores the question of whether or not the US pays what it owes (which it has been lately, I think)

      • by Z34107 (925136)

        The US kind of donates the building and practically the entirety of the peacekeeping budget, not to mention troops.

        Other countries get paid per soldier per day contributed towards peacekeeping missions, which third world nations with bored armies love.

        • by faffod (905810)
          Since the 1950's the US has never donated troops. The US troops deployed today are not UN trops.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kagura (843695)
            As far as I'm aware, troops in South Korea are still under UN command and aren't scheduled to be switched over until 2012 or so (according to previous agreements) at the soonest.
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by faffod (905810)
              The US donated the troops in the 1950s to the UN for Korea. I think that you are correct that the US is still providing troops for that agreement. However, since then, any time the US has deployed troops it has been outside of the UN infrastructure.
              • by Kagura (843695)
                Yes, but it sounds misleading to say that the US has never donated troops since the 1950s when it still has a 50+ year agreement going with SK where there are around 30,000 US military personnel stationed there.

                But otherwise, I'm surprised (and therefore a little suspicious of the fact!) that the US hasn't donated troops under a UN command since then.
                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  by faffod (905810)
                  I agree I could have phrased it better. Also, a bit of poking around led to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peacekeeping [wikipedia.org] which states that the US and S. Korea took over the DMZ in 1967 I started to check on the various deployments over the years: Both gulf wars were "Coalition troops", not UN. US troops in Kosovo were under NATO. Then I found an error on my part: the US troops in Somalia were part of a UN command. So, yes the US has donated troops, I was wrong. That said, the vast majority of the UN troops
    • by trawg (308495) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:26PM (#25984509) Homepage

      However, I see this as "make the US pay for it". If a non-planet killing asteroid is targeting a nation which has not contributed to the fund/program, should we defend it? The security system on my house doesn't protect my neighbor's, (although my tax dollars which pay for the police, do.).

      Heh, I always just assumed the US government will do it under the guise of protecting the world, when really, it's just a space superiority weapons system

    • Realistically, we can't ask developing countries to shoulder much of the burden of this cost, if any. However, it is true that the EU (among others, such as Japan and China) should probably also contribute along with the US.
    • by east coast (590680) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:31PM (#25984551)
      This theoretical asteroid would know no man-made boundaries. It's unlikely that the overall effect that it will produce would be able to be narrowed down to a single nation or even a small group of them. The ripple such an event would cause would touch everyone's life in some fashion.

      Either way, I have zero faith in the UN being able to put together anything bigger or more complex than a boy scout weekend camping trip without massive corruption, waste and/or bad blood being created between member nations.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        A theoretical asteroid can be of many different sizes. An Apophis sized impactor does have global implications (though its not extinction class); however, something like what exploded above Tunguska in the early 20th century could potentially be devastating within a single country but not have an effect outside of a limited region, like a bad earthquake.

        And that is an interesting question, because unlike other natural disasters you know its coming and you can do something about it, but its expensive. So i

        • by norite (552330)

          A theoretical asteroid can be of many different sizes. An Apophis sized impactor does have global implications (though its not extinction class); however, something like what exploded above Tunguska in the early 20th century could potentially be devastating within a single country but not have an effect outside of a limited region, like a bad earthquake.

          I guess you're assuming here it's a land impact. Most of the Earth is covered by water, making an oceanic impact event much more likely. If an Apophis size asteroid impacted in the Atlantic, which is a theoretical possibility with 99942 Apophis in April 13th 2036, then you're looking at a massive, mile high tidal wave taking out the entire Eastern seaboard of the US, Canada, the Caribbean, Western Europe, South America and West Africa. All gone, quite literally. Nothing but mud remaining. Or it could hit t

      • Either way, I have zero faith in the UN being able to put together anything bigger or more complex than a boy scout weekend camping trip without massive corruption, waste and/or bad blood being created between member nations.

        The effectiveness of international bodies/treaties depends on your metric. In terms of climate change they haven't done a very good job reducing CO2 emissions.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol#Increase_in_greenhouse_gas_emission_since_1990 [wikipedia.org]

        As of year-end 2006, the United Kingdom and Sweden were the only EU countries on pace to meet their Kyoto emissions commitments by 2010. While UN statistics indicate that, as a group, the 36 Kyoto signatory countries can meet the 5% reduction target by 2012, most of the progress in greenhouse gas reduction has come from the stark decline in Eastern European countries' emissions after the fall of communism in the 1990s.

        Most countries have done OK out of it though. The EU managed to get the cut in emissions to be based on 1990s emissions, even though when it was signed emissions here already dropping due to Communist era polluters closing down. Russia did even better, and may h

      • [...] Either way, I have zero faith in the UN being able to put together anything bigger or more complex than a boy scout weekend camping trip without massive corruption, waste and/or bad blood being created between member nations.

        You, sir, are an optimist. I'd set the bar at a boy scout picnic, and would be pleasantly surprised if they managed to pull it off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Broken scope (973885)

      Those police don't actually protect his house you know... they just take pictures and fill out paperwork you send to the insurance company after some hoodlum ransacked your house while you were at work.

      God, I hope an anti asteroid system isn't like the police, I'd prefer if it was more like the secret service. You know, everyone is pretty focused on that one important dude, and if he gets offed, a whole bunch of people get fired.

    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:35PM (#25984583)

      If a non-planet killing asteroid is targeting a nation which has not contributed to the fund/program, should we defend it?

      That's much less likely than the asteroid hitting an ocean. After a glance at the globe, it looks to me like most of the world's ocean area has straight shot to at least some portion of the US coastline. So if the goal is to avoid those 1000-foot high tsunamis, the US probably has more interest in ensuring that the program gets implemented than to worry about who's not paying.

    • Act of god... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Skiron (735617)
      No insurance pays out for an 'act of god' (whatever that means), so why bother anyway? - we would lose it all with no pay-back.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Reziac (43301) *

      Volunteer fire departments have that same problem -- what to do about people who refuse to contribute? Most have hit on a simple solution: if you don't pay your fair share to support the VFD, they *will* just stand by and let your house burn. Usually it only takes one such example.

      Second, considering that asteroid hits are neither an everyday occurrance, nor something we can realistically defend against anyway, one has to wonder just exactly who benefits from the money this will suck out of the U.S.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ThunderThor53 (836847)
      And how do you propose accounting for the 2/3 of Earth that is water? %landmass + %coastline? The tsunamis from an ocean landing are likely to cause more devastation than a dirt landing - and are more likely to occur.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by seven of five (578993)
      An asteroid big enough to wipe out a city would also set fires to surrounding area, sending black smoke into the atmosphere. Cutting incoming sunlight for everyone. Not many threats are so small as to be completely ignored on the global scale.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Yes we should defend it for a variety of reasons.

      Firstly, if an asteroid does hit a nation that didn't contribute, inevitably people in America and around the world will cry out about the "Humanity Crisis in $COUNTRY as a result of the asteroid strike" and it will end up costing us many times more money than if we had stopped the damn thing in the first place. The EU and other countries do indeed contribute to the humanitarian crises of the world, but that doesn't mean it won't cost us money.

      Secondly, it wo

  • by spike2131 (468840) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:23PM (#25984489) Homepage

    .... everybody knows that killer robots are the real menace.

  • by retech (1228598)
    I want to be the one selling the insurance for this! 6.7 billion people need a policy!
  • Thats the definition of "scream and run in circles"?
  • How about we put the net ON the asteroids and use their MC^2 to produce clean energy!
  • Our most capable politicians in charge of determining how to deflect and asteroid. How reassuring!

            Brett

    • Don't worry - the skills of a politician are only two: getting elected, and knowing who to delegate work to.

      This will promptly be handed off to their brightest scientists. Or maybe they'll just throw grant money at the guys who proposed the problem.

  • At least we can count on the UN sending that asteroid a strongly-worded letter!
  • World-burning asteroids of the type we're starting to see are part of a rather large cluster which has been studiously not-discussed since it began its inbound solar trajectory a few years back from where it was unceremoniously nine-pinned from the Kuiper Belt by a brown dwarf. [telegraph.co.uk] I suspect that even if we had put some kind of defense into place years ago, it might find itself sorely taxed.

    Instead, I believe the response to an impending asteroid pummeling anticipated by our mighty world leaders involves a gre

  • Offsite backups (Score:4, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @03:05AM (#25985787) Homepage Journal

    For true disaster preparedness the only solution is a backup hot site. Mars would be nice.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by icebrain (944107)

      For true disaster preparedness the only solution is a backup hot site. Mars would be nice.

      You may speak in jest, sir, but your statement holds a lot of truth. Establishing self-sustaining colonies throughout the solar system (and eventually the stars) should be the primary goal of any space program, not watching earthworms in zero-g. Get yourself established on other planets and moons, and that technology will feed directly back into asteroid defense and "green" efforts.

      Plus, it provides jobs and incentive for people to stay in school. It's a win all around. And as John Young said, the dinos

      • by maxume (22995)

        This sentiment translates directly into massive funding for esoteric physics research, not the silly firecracker stunts of today's manned NASA.

        Chemical rockets simply won't cut it.

    • by TobascoKid (82629)

      Wouldn't Venus make for a better hot site?

  • by Shag (3737) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:21AM (#25986835) Homepage

    I don't think this is going to be the UN General Assembly.

    I doubt it'll even be the UN Security Council.

    I'd half expect it to be the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, which handles the treaty on the peaceable use of outer space, and does things that are actually useful, like maintaining the registry of what's been launched and is whizzing around up there... but this sort of thing is a bit different than what UNOOSA has been doing.

    My Christmas-vacation homework will thus be:
    1. Ask friend at UNOOSA whether they're involved, and
    2. Ask Dave Tholen (Apophis discoverer) whether he knows anything.
    Optionally:
    3. Report back.

    • by Shag (3737) on Thursday December 04, 2008 @06:38AM (#25986917) Homepage

      Okay, I poked around a bit... looks like the Working Group on Near-Earth Objects (mentioned in the BBC piece) isn't (as I had initially thought) the IAU WGNEO, but an occasionally-convened body under the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

      Evidently UN HQ in NY has hosted a couple lil' conferences on the subject of NEOs in the past decade or so. Dunno whether this next gig in February will be there, or in Vienna, but I'm gonna start asking around. Might be an interesting thing to check out.

      • by Shag (3737)

        Well, I asked around and the Scientific and Technical Committee is meeting Februray 9-20 at the UN's Vienna International Center in Austria. I don't know which of those days the NEO working group will meet, but I'm trying to see if I can somehow be in the area (or at least in Europe) around that time (which isn't exactly a trivial thing, since I live on the other side of the planet).

        Actually getting in might also be non-trivial, now that I think of it... but if I make it all the way to Vienna, I'm pretty s

  • Oh, great (Score:1, Flamebait)

    As if Oil for Food [washingtonpost.com], Commission on Human Rights [wikipedia.org] and United Nations Office for Project Services [iht.com] weren't already proof enough that any money given to the U.N. is money wasted !
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by HertzaHaeon (1164143)

      No, there are many things the UN does well [democracyarsenal.org]. Also, the Oil For Food Program did accomplish its humanitarian goal [oilforfoodfacts.org], despite the corruption. The UN had no authority or the resources to stop smuggling, although it did warn about it. The nations responsible for it, among them the US and UK, didn't do much about it at the time, however.

      I'm not sure that I'd like men in blue helmets watching the skies, but their incompetence and corrupion is exaggerated.

    • who's the tosser who flagged this as flaimbait ?
      • "Senior U.N. officials said they hope that Volcker's fourth and most complete report will bring an end to a painful 18-month probe of the $64 billion program, which investigators concluded was so poorly managed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein raked in $1.7 billion in kickbacks from participating companies and $11 billion in oil-smuggling profits. "

        The Oil for Food program was possibly the single most corrupt administrative activity that the U.N. ever enagged in. Aside from NOT accomplishing AT ALL what
  • then the only thing you can do is say good bye because it is game over for humans on earth, you cant blow up a Everest sized asteroid, you might knock some chunks off even with a nuke...
    • by joke_dst (832055)
      If you detect it in time a small nudge may be all you need. These things travel rather long distances, a small nudge is enough to make it miss earth altogether.
  • one of the only reasons that we are not still simple bacteria and stromatolites here on earth is because of the astroid/comet/massive volcano "reset button". every time a large "catastrophe" has taken place, evolution advanced. the strong survived and it spawned, or allowed for, change in our environment to what it is today. the same reason they purposely set forest fires, to allow for new life to seed. Are we advanced as we can possibly be? In the early 1900's the US patent office was almost closed bec
  • Does "asteroid-based threats" mean threats issued while the party making the threat is on an asteroid, or threats that indicate the use of an asteroid?

  • I'm sure the UN will come up with an efficient solution to the problem, which all member nations will immediately ratify. Just like the UN always does.

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