UNOOSA And Asteroid Foundation Sign MoU To Enhance NEO Awareness

The Vesta asteroid. Photograph courtesy of NASA.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Asteroid Foundation, Luxembourg that will enable both bodies to work together to enhance understanding and deliver educational activities on asteroids. The collaboration also aims to raise awareness of International Asteroid Day, celebrated each year on 30 June in memory of the Tunguska event, the most harmful known asteroid-related event on Earth in recent history, which took place on 30 June 1908. In 2016, International Asteroid Day was recognized at the highest levels by the UN General Assembly through the adoption of resolution A/RES/71/90.

As the gateway to space in the United Nations system, UNOOSA is uniquely positioned to promote intergovernmental cooperation and coordination on planetary defence. For example, the Office supports and cooperates with two entities established in 2014: the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) and the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG). These entities came into being through a series of recommendations for an international response to the risk of near-Earth object (NEO) impact, endorsed by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, of which UNOOSA is Secretariat. The aim of these recommendations is to address the global challenge posed by NEOs, beginning with their detection and tracking and, subsequently, deflection and planetary defence.

The Asteroid Foundation was set up in Luxembourg in 2017, subsequently to the launch of the initiative by the Luxembourg Government and the UN General Assembly recognition of International Asteroid Day. The aim of the Foundation is to promote global awareness and increase global knowledge about asteroids via the organization of events and the distribution of information on the opportunities and risks of asteroids and other celestial objects, including via events organized in the context of Asteroid Day celebrations in Luxembourg and throughout the world.

UNOOSA Director, Simonetta Di Pippo, commented: “This MoU is a step change in our collaboration with the Asteroid Foundation and further supports the implementation of the General Assembly’s call to raise global awareness about the asteroid impact hazard. As part of our extensive outreach activities, UNOOSA continues to advocate to increase awareness on this topic through our cooperation across the international space community, including the Asteroid Foundation.”

Georges Schmit, Chair of the Asteroid Foundation commented: “This MoU clearly shows the strong will of the Asteroid Foundation to work together with UNOOSA to promote the common goal of increasing awareness, education and knowledge about asteroids and other celestial bodies among the population at large, and to better understand the opportunities and risks of peaceful and sustainable outer space exploration and use.”

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