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Deflecting Earth-bound asteroids becoming a global effort

Europe is ramping up efforts to detect incoming asteroids. Scientists and astronauts met for the first time in Germany to discuss options for defending the Earth from asteroids.

In this June 2010 photo, two streaks show Japan's Hayabusa probe and its capsule, the first spacecraft to complete a round-trip journey to an asteroid.

Wakayama University Institute for Education on Space/AP

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Space agencies around the world are working to be ready to coordinate their response to any potentially harmful asteroid headed for Earth.

To help focus a world-class planetary defense against threatening near-Earth objects, the space experts are seeking to establish a high-level Mission Planning and Operations Group, or MPOG for short.

Veteran astronauts and space planners gathered here at the European Space Agency's European Space Operations Center Oct. 27-29 to shape the asteroid threat response plan and establish an Information Analysis and Warning Network.

The MPOG workshop was organized by the European Space Agency, the Association of Space Explorers and Secure World Foundation (for whom this columnist is a research associate).

"It was the first face-to-face meeting of representatives from space agencies wrestling with the tough geopolitical and technical issues which they will face when we're confronted with an actual impact threat," said former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart, a workshop leader and longtime activist on ways to protect the Earth from future asteroid impacts.

Sticky issues with space rocks

While the technical issues – early warning and deflection – are challenging, they essentially pale in comparison with the very sticky issues that will confront the community of nations when they have to make a collective decision to act on an actual threat, Schweickart told SPACE.com. [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]

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