ESA will host the International Academy of Astronautic's 4th Planetary Defence Conference (PDC 2015), entitled 'Assessing Impact Risk & Managing Response', at the Agency's ESRIN establishment, near Rome, 13-17 April 2015. A media briefing will be held on 16 April 2015.PDC 2015 will provide a forum for the world's top experts from space agencies, academia and industry to present the latest research and discuss current scientific understanding of the risk posed by asteroids that could potentially strike our planet.
Topics to be discussed at PDC 2015 include planetary defence, the continuing international search for undiscovered NEOs, the state of scientific knowledge of asteroids and their physical characteristics, mitigation techniques, future deflection missions, impact warning and effects, civil response and education. The conference will include an exercise where participants will simulate the decision-making process for developing deflection and civil defence responses to a hypothetical asteroid impact threat.
Media are invited to take part in the PDC2015 press briefing, Thursday, 16 April, to include presentations from agency experts and the release of summary findings from the week-long conference.
Assessing the threat
Of the more than 600 000 known asteroids in our Solar System, more than 12 000 are classified as near-Earth objects, or NEOs, because their orbits bring them relatively close to our path.Dramatic proof that any of these can strike Earth came on 15 February 2013, when an unknown object thought to be 17-20 m in diameter arrived at 66 000 km/h and exploded high above Chelyabinsk, Russia, with 20-30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.
The resulting shock wave caused widespread damage and injuries, making it the largest known natural object to have entered the atmosphere since the 1908 Tunguska event, which destroyed a remote forest area of Siberia.
Coordinating global efforts
International cooperation to address the NEO threat is coordinated at ESA by the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Programme office.In addition to coordinating Europe's asteroid-hunting activities, the SSA Programme office represents ESA at the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG), technical fora with a mandate from the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) to develop a strategy on how to react to a possible asteroid impact threat.