International Asteroid Warning Network
First Meeting of the Steering Committee

Final Agenda and Presentation Slides

Available here

Findings of the First Meeting of the Steering Committee

On 13 and 14 January 2014, the first meeting of the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) Steering Committee was hosted by the Minor Planet Center (MPC), at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The core membership of the ad hoc Steering Committee, organized for this initial meeting, includes individuals and institutions from Russia (Institute of Astronomy/ Russian Academy of Sciences (INASAN)§, France (French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)), United States (National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the MPC), Germany (German Aerospace Center (DLR)), the European Space Agency (ESA) and its Space Situational Awareness program; the Netherlands Institute for Space Research (SRON)§§, Italy (INAF-IAPS and the Near-Earth Objects Dynamic Site (NEODyS) at the University of Pisa), as well as the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

The General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) has long agreed that an international response is necessary to coordinate and develop mitigation measures to address the near-Earth object (NEO) impact threat. Mitigation includes detection, follow-up, and characterization of NEO impact threats as well as the development of possible deflection techniques. Last year, at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) meeting in Vienna, the initial plans for an international response were contained in the recommendations of the Working Group on NEOs. These plans, which included the establishment of the IAWN, were adopted as an outcome of the 50th Session of the UN COPUOS Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) held in Vienna, Austria from 11-22 February 2013.

The Working Group on NEOs, through the multi-year efforts of its Action Team-14, identified three (3) primary components of threat mitigation:

  1. discovery of hazardous asteroids and comets and the identification of those objects requiring action (which the IAWN would do);
  2. planning for a mitigation campaign for an impactor that includes deflection and/or disruption actions as well as civil defense activities (the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) by member states with their respective space agencies);
  3. implementation of that mitigation campaign if the threat warrants action.

As a first step, Action Team-14 (AT-14) recommended the establishment of the IAWN by continuing to link together the institutions that are already performing many of the necessary functions including: discovering, monitoring and physically characterizing the potentially hazardous NEO population; maintaining an international authoritative clearing house for the receipt, acknowledgment and processing of all NEO observations; recommending policies regarding criteria and thresholds for notification of an emerging impact threat; and developing a strategy using well-defined communication plans and protocols to assist Governments in the analysis of impact consequences and in the planning of mitigation responses.

This initial meeting of the IAWN Steering Committee was an opportunity to: a.) hear directly from experts engaged in NEO discovery, tracking, and characterization; b.) examine policies regarding threat threshold criteria; c.) provide recommendations for communicating that information to the world’s political leaders and the general population at large.

The first IAWN Steering Committee meeting in Cambridge, MA yielded the following findings:

  1. The IAWN Steering Committee recognizes that it needs to encourage additional participation in the IAWN and expand recruitment of other nations to the effort. These potential partners include, but are not limited to: the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the European Southern Observatory (ESO)**, Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), China National Space Administration (CNSA), United Kingdom Space Agency (UK Space Agency), and the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES)††.

  2. A Statement of Intent should be drafted that provides guidance for the IAWN’s operational principles and acknowledges the participation of each partner to the IAWN. The Statement will: a.) address the goals for the global NEO database and methods (with an agreed-upon set of detection and characterization standards and coordinated observations) within the IAWN, b.) address the goals for communicating information to external audiences, including politicians, policy makers, the emergency management community, and the population at large. The Statement of Intent will also define the basic roles and responsibilities of the IAWN Steering Committee.

  3. The IAWN should seek to enhance NEO discovery and follow-up observations (astrometry, photometry, spectroscopy, etc.) through further international cooperation and coordination, especially in the southern hemisphere. Specifically the IAWN should encourage the use of existing ground-based telescopes for NEO follow-up observations; incorporate existing assets to bridge gaps in global sky coverage; and, identify and facilitate the coordination of existing capabilities of members/entities that could be utilized more effectively (e.g., the Catalina Sky Survey and Pan-STARRS will cooperate in their efforts to increase sky coverage as well as avoid duplication of effort).

  4. Through further international collaboration, the IAWN should seek to accomplish the following goals and objectives: establish an international rapid all-sky search capability that is focused on discovering smaller, imminent impactors (e.g., Chelyabinsk event or larger); develop and operate an effective, space-based NEO infrared survey telescope to significantly accelerate the current NEO discovery rate.

  5. The IAWN Steering Committee should organize a two-day workshop on communication strategies and planning regarding NEO impact hazards. The workshop should focus upon the critical assessment of historical and hypothetical messages, strategies, and plans developed by the NEO community in an effort to improve upon international communications concerning potentially hazardous asteroids and impact risks. Social scientists with expertise in public communication, risk communication, cross-cultural communication, risk perception, emergency preparedness and disaster management should be employed to organize and conduct the workshop. Drawing on theory, research, and experience, these experts can assist IAWN participants to develop public information strategies, plans and protocols relating to potential NEO impacts and their consequences and then, in turn, help implement best practices for effective international NEO communications.

IAWN ad hoc Steering Committee Members

Sergio Camacho (UNCOPUOS/NEO WG Chair) Alan Harris (DLR)*
Lindley Johnson (NASA HQ/NEO PE) Detlef Koschny (ESA/ESTEC)*
Boris Shustov (Institute of Astronomy, RAS) Tim Spahr (MPC)
Giovanni Valsecchi (INAF-IAPS/NEODyS) Karel van der Hucht (SRON/IAU)
Patrick Michel (Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur/CNRS)* Don Yeomans (JPL/NASA NEO PO)

Participants and presenters at the First IAWN Steering Committee Meeting

Paul Abell (NASA/JSC) Linda Billings (NASA/NAI) Anh Doan (JPL/OIG)
Dennis Mileti (CU-Boulder) Ron Yarbrough (NASA/OIG) Jennifer Lu(JPL/OIG)
Ray Tolomeo (NASA/OIG) Jason Kessler (NASA HQ/OCT) Richard Binzel (MIT)
Makoto Yoshikawa (JAXA) Herb Viggh (MIT/LL) Vishnu Reddy (PSI)
Eileen Ryan (MRO)* Richard Wainscoat (UofH/IfA) Amy Mainzer (JPL)*
Grant Stokes (MIT/LL) Eric Christensen (UofAz) Vigar Abbasi (CSA)
Robert MacMillan (UofAz)* Dave Ropeik (Harvard) José Luis Galache (MPC)
Ray Williamson (SWF) Scott Stuart (MIT/LL) Rich Sheldon (Willis)
Leonard David (SWF)* Alessondra Springmann (NAIC) Rob Landis (NASA)*
Tim Tawney (NASA HQ/OIIR) Lance Benner (JPL)

The IAWN Steering Committee, Minor Planet Center, and NASA Headquarters gratefully acknowledges and recognizes the IT support provided by the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI); namely, Ricky Guest (NASA ARC/Lockheed-Martin) for his assistance and enabling the remote presence across Europe and the United States.