Aerospace’s interest began early in 2003 with a challenge given by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center to respond to a hypothetical asteroid threat, and Dr. William Ailor, an Aerospace Fellow, served on the response team. Shortly after that, Aerospace initiated the current planetary defense conference series and has been a major sponsor for the last six international conferences.
“Astronomers began a serious effort looking for asteroid and comet strikes in the late 1990s,” said Ailor. “Since then, observers have discovered more than 600 objects that have a small, but very low probability of hitting Earth this century.”
The conference took place May 15-19 and Aerospace co-sponsored the event. The threat exercise was developed by a team of specialists from Aerospace, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Conference attendees had the opportunity to examine the various option0 for deflecting a potential threat and make timely decisions as the threat progressed.
Ailor has led three additional exercises that included representatives from NASA, FEMA, and other U.S. government agencies. These events were instrumental in gathering recommendations for reducing the hazard, helping create and shape government policy and actions, and promoting collaboration and coordination among disaster response agencies.
As a representative for the IAA, Ailor has participated in a United Nations-sponsored effort to develop recommendations for how the international community should collaborate on planetary defense. Currently, he serves on the Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG), where leaders of national space agencies meet to discuss efforts related to design of planetary defense missions.
About The Aerospace Corporation
The Aerospace Corporation is a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has approximately 4,000 employees nationwide. With major locations in El Segundo, Calif.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Washington, D.C., Aerospace addresses complex problems with agility, innovation, and objective technical leadership across the space enterprise and other areas of national significance. For more information, visit www.aerospace.org. Follow us on Twitter: @AerospaceCorp.