Recognizing the need to address the risk of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) more proactively, the Working Group on NEOs of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space suggested the establishment of a Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) by States Members of the United Nations that have space agencies. Its responsibilities should include laying out the framework, timeline, and options for initiating and executing space mission response activities. The group should also promote opportunities for international collaboration on research and techniques for NEO deflection. In its annual session on June 2013, the Committee endorsed the recommendation regarding the establishment of SMPAG.
SMPAG includes several space agencies as members and other relevant entities as observers. Its responsibilities include proposing options and implementation plans for initiating and executing space missions for near-Earth object deflection.
In 2015, SMPAG started developing its work plan, initially comprising 11 work plan items, each of which is the responsibility of one or more members of SMPAG. The work plan is a road map for the planetary defence at the global level, including agreements on initial criteria and thresholds for response actions to the threat of impacts, the consideration of types and technologies which could be used to mitigate the impact of NEOs, and the mapping of threat, as well as developing a plan of action in the event of the discovery of a credible threat.
By 2022, SMPAG included 18 space agencies as members, and seven institutions as observers, including UNOOSA, which serves as its permanent Secretariat. Also, in the year 2022, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States successfully tested the deflection of an asteroid through its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. More information on this mission is available here and here.
Further information on SMPAG
- UNOOSA Publication: Near-Earth Objects and Planetary Defence: https://www.unoosa.org/documents/pdf/smpag/st_space_073E.pdf
- International Asteroid Day: https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/outreach/events/iad/index.html
Main article image: AIM and CubeSats watch impact. Copyright: ESA - ScienceOffice.org