Dr. William Ailor, Aerospace Fellow at The Aerospace Corporation (Aerospace), will lead a realistic asteroid impact threat exercise at the 2017 International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Planetary Defense Conference in Tokyo, Japan, May 15-19.
Aerospace, co-sponsor of this conference, brings together global experts and space agency leaders to discuss asteroid threats, mitigation strategies, and to consider international disaster response plans.
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 Ailor 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.”
This year’s 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 will have the opportunity to examine the various options for deflecting a potential threat and make timely decisions as the threat progresses.
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.