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UN's new asteroid-monitoring group will defend Earth from killer space rocks

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The United Nations is planning to set up an International Asteroid Warning Group that'll inform its member nations when asteroids are on collision course with Earth. When a dangerous rock is discovered, the UN's existing Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will launch a mission to slam the asteroid off its trajectory.

The UN will slam asteroids off course

Such a group was originally called for by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) in 2008, but Scientific American reports that the impact of the Chelyabinsk meteor earlier this year likely influenced the UN General Assembly's decision to adopt the ASE's guidelines. The meteor that struck the Russian city didn't claim any fatalities, but did cause thousands of injuries. None of the world's space agencies anticipated the meteor's collision: notice of its fall came from dash-cam and mobile-phone footage taken by citizens near the blast zone.

Speaking at a New York event after the UN General Assembly's announcement of its plans, ex-astronaut Ed Lu said "There are about 1 million asteroids large enough to destroy New York City or larger. Our challenge is to find these asteroids first before they find us." Lu's own nonprofit B612 Foundation was set up to deal with the problem of asteroid impacts, and aims to launch a privately funded telescope called Sentinel in 2017 that'll detect asteroids in the vicinity of Earth.

NASA knows Earth is in the path of at least 1,400 asteroids

NASA already knows Earth is currently in the path of at least 1,400 asteroids, but the space agency says we're likely to be safe from their impact for this century. That hasn't stopped several close calls as space rocks whizz past our planet, including one recent near-miss the size of the Golden Gate Bridge. To continue on without an organization such as the UN's Asteroid Warning Group is, in Ed Lu's eyes, "stupidity."