Whose job is it to stop an asteroid from hitting Earth?
Not to be overly alarmist, but Earth has had two near-misses with large asteroids so far this month. On Wednesday, a hunk of space rock three miles in diameter and going by the designation 4179 Toutatis passed by the planet, missing by 4.3 million miles, or about 18 times the distance from the Earth to the moon. …
The United Nations Scientific and Technical Subcommittee has a special working group on NEOs advised by a special coalition of experts (called Action Team 14), ranging from space agencies to advocacy groups. Together, they are working to formalize an U.N. framework for coordinating an international response to potentially dangerous NEOs. Their recommendations, which will be presented in February, are expected to include proposals to establish two institutions. The first is an international asteroid warning network to coordinate the search for NEOs, determine which ones are threats, and what their characteristics are (what they’re made of, how fast they’re traveling, and other factors relevant to trying to deflect them). The second group is a “space mission planning advisory group” — comprised of engineers, astronauts (and cosmonauts, and maybe taikonauts), and other representatives of various countries’ space agencies — to plan potential responses to threats. It’s a good start, but some experts feel it’s moving too slowly (surprising no one familiar with the United Nations).
For now, it would probably fall to the few countries with advanced space-launch technology and powerful ballistic kinetic weapons — the United States and Russia, most prominently — to try to divert an incoming NEO.