Near-Earth objects, NEOs, represent potentially catastrophic threats to our planet. A near-Earth object (NEO) is an asteroid or comet which passes close to the Earth's orbit. In technical terms, a NEO is considered to have a trajectory which brings it within 1.3 astronomical units of the Sun and hence within 0.3 astronomical units, or approximately 45 million kilometres, of the Earth's orbit. NEOs generally result from objects that have experienced gravitational perturbations from nearby planets, moving them into orbits that allow them to come near to the Earth.
UNOOSA has worked on NEOs for many years, recognising the potential devastation that an impact can cause and the resources that will be required to prevent such a collision. In 1995, the Office organized the United Nations International Conference on Near-Earth Objects in New York. This conference was the first international conference on NEOs and its aim was to sensitize UN Member States about the potential threat of near-Earth objects. In 1999, the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) was held in Vienna. One of the recommendations of the Conference was to improve international coordination of activities related to near-Earth objects. In order to implement that recommendation, in 2001 the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) established the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects (Action Team 14).
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