Possible threat to Earth by asteroids among issues at UN debate on outer space

Mazlan Othman, Director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs

14 October 2010 – A United Nations working group is currently looking into how the Organization should respond to possible threats to the planet from near-earth objects, such as asteroids, a senior official with the world body said today.

Mazlan Othman, the Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that the working group – within the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space – is expected to come up with recommendations which would be presented to the General Assembly for Member States to make a decision on response to near-earth objects.

“We now have a working group that has a multi-year work plan in the Committee to discuss this, and this working group will come up with a draft on how the UN should deal with this situation,” Ms. Othman, who is in New York to attend the Assembly’s discussions on international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space.

She said the Vienna-based Committee is also discussing space debris, among other issues, and long-term sustainability of space exploration.

“Any space debris is very dangerous not only to satellites but also to human life because of the International Space Station,” said Ms. Othman. Other topics on the Committee’s agenda include benefits of space technology, space and water, and space and climate change.

She said she could not rule out the possibility that some kind of life may exist somewhere in outer space, given the large number of galaxies and extra-solar planets out there.

“It is not surprising that there could be life on one of the stars,” Ms. Othman said in response to a reporter’s question, adding that she believed that if that was indeed the case, the UN, through UNOOSA would then support Member States in discussing the issue.


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