contract N.: 13265
Spaceguard Integrated System for Potentially Hazardous Object Survey (SISyPHOS)
This report summarises the results of the contract Spaceguard Integrated System for Potentially Hazardous Objects Survey (SISyPHOS) between ESOC and The Spaceguard Foundation.
Asteroids and Comets are classical subjects of scientific investigation by the astronomers' community worldwide.
In the most recent years, a wider attention has been focused on these minor bodies of our solar system, not only by the specialised scientific community, but also by the wider public to which mass media are targeted.
Two major events can be identified as the causes of such enlarged attention: the first is the correlation between the impacts of minor bodies on our planet and global catastrophes; the second is the evidence given to such type of cosmic events by the impact of the periodic comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with the planet Jupiter in July 1994.
The resulting public debate, also stimulated by mass media (newspapers, TV), has been and is oscillating between the two extreme positions of catastrophism and underestimation of the problem, while the astronomers' community is making a significant effort to put it in the frame of a correct scientific approach.
This study report is aimed at contributing to such effort to produce a correct analysis of the various facets of the problem posed by the threat of impact of minor bodies of the solar system with our planet.
The study has been performed under a contract of the European Space Agency (ESA), which is particularly motivated by the identification of the possible contributions of space-based facilities to the considered problem.
This aspect is, therefore, given a special attention.
A proper identification of the tasks to be assigned to
space-based means can only be done if these means are considered as elements of an overall monitoring network, thus complementing and integrating, with their specifically assigned missions, the tasks accomplished by ground-based infrastructures (astronomical observatories, radar installations, etc.).
This approach to the problem is therefore in perfect agreement with the line indicated both by the Council of Europe (Resolution 1080, 1996, "on the detection of asteroids and comets potentially dangerous to humankind") and by the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) of the United Nations (Report of the Third United Nations Conference on the Evaluation and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, A/CONF.184/6, Vienna July 1999, approved by the UN General Assembly, December 1999).