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updated 2/17/2013 1:48:19 PM ET 2013-02-17T18:48:19

The Russian fireball and the close flyby of the asteroid 2012 DA14 on Friday came at a moment in time when the United Nations is discussing international response to the near-Earth object impact concern.

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Detailed discussions about the Russian meteor explosion and Earth's encounter with asteroid 2012 DA14 were high on the Feb. 15 agenda of Action Team-14 during the 50th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), being held from Feb. 11 to 22 at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna.

The multi-year work of Action Team-14 (AT-14) is focused on pushing forward on an international response to the impact threat of asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs).

Up for discussion at the Vienna gathering is the report: "Near-Earth Objects, 2011-2012, Recommendations of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects for an International Response to the Near-Earth Object Impact Threat."

[ See video of the Russian meteor explosion ]

Future threatening asteroids
"This event in Russia and the pass of the larger asteroid 2012 DA14 are good reminders that many thousands of objects like it pass near Earth daily," said Ray Williamson, a senior advisor to the Secure World Foundation and a participant in the Vienna gathering.  

Secure World Foundation is a private operating foundation dedicated to the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples.

Williamson said that some objects will be larger and cause considerable damage if they strike Earth. Furthermore, it is critical that efforts continue to identify and track asteroids in order to counter the largest ones before they do serious damage to population centers.

"Work is continuing within the United Nations on developing international responses to future threatening asteroids. Given the uncertainties concerning where such asteroids might strike Earth and how much damage they might do, international responses will be critical," Williamson told SPACE.com.

Also taking part in the UN NEO working group is space scientist, Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency’s European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

"The day before we thought it is great timing that 2012 DA14 flies by in the evening … and were shocked when in the morning we learned about the Russia event," Koschny told SPACE.com. "What a coincidence. Was this a cosmic warning shot? It makes you think."

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Timely warnings
For its part, the UN Action Team-14 has been deliberating over the years regarding the makeup and focus of an Information, Analysis and Warning Network (IAWN), designed to gather and analyze NEO data and provide timely warnings to national authorities should a potentially hazardous NEO threaten Earth.

That report and its findings are being shouldered by Sergio Camacho who chairs the Action Team on NEOs — a group that was established in 2001.

But gluing together a planetary defense strategy is not easy and includes a number of components: From finding potentially hazardous objects, predicting their future locations, and providing warning about future impacts with the Earth.

Furthermore, such a strategy also involves missions to deflect impacting asteroids by changing their orbit, as well as disaster preparedness management and, in the event of a NEO strike, shaping a mitigation and recovery plan to counteract consequences.

The need for an IAWN had been identified in the September 2008 report: "Asteroid Threats: A Call for a Global Response," a document prepared by an expert panel convened by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) to assist the work of AT-14.

Here is an excerpt of the 2008 asteroid threat report.

Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and a past editor-in-chief of the National Space Society's Ad Astra and Space World magazine, and has written for SPACE.com since 1999.Follow SPACE.com on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

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Photos: Month in Space: January 2014

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    Stars, galaxies and nebulas dot the skies over the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Paranal Observatory in Chile, in a picture released on Jan. 7. This image also shows three of the four movable units that feed light into the Very Large Telescope Interferometer, the world's most advanced optical instrument. Combining to form one larger telescope, they are greater than the sum of their parts: They reveal details that would otherwise be visible only through a telescope as large as the distance between them. (Y. Beletsky / ESO) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A balloon's view

    Cameras captured the Grandville High School RoboDawgs' balloon floating through Earth's upper atmosphere during its ascent on Dec. 28, 2013. The Grandville RoboDawgs’ first winter balloon launch reached an estimated altitude of 130,000 feet, or about 25 miles, according to coaches Mike Evele and Doug Hepfer. It skyrocketed past the team’s previous 100,000-feet record set in June. The RoboDawgs started with just one robotics team in 1998, but they've grown to support more than 30 teams at public schools in Grandville, Mich. (Kyle Moroney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spacemen at work

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, right, and Sergey Ryazanskiy perform maintenance on the International Space Station on Jan. 27. During the six-hour, eight-minute spacewalk, Kotov and Ryazanskiy completed the installation of a pair of high-fidelity cameras that experienced connectivity issues during a Dec. 27 spacewalk. The cosmonauts also retrieved scientific gear outside the station's Russian segment. (NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Special delivery

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  5. Accidental art

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  6. Supersonic test flight

    A camera looking back over Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo's fuselage shows the rocket burn with a Mojave Desert vista in the background during a test flight of the rocket plane on Jan. 10. Cameras were mounted on the exterior of SpaceShipTwo as well as its carrier airplane, WhiteKnightTwo, to monitor the rocket engine's performance. The test was aimed at setting the stage for honest-to-goodness flights into outer space later this year, and eventual commercial space tours.

    More about SpaceShipTwo on PhotoBlog (Virgin Galactic) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Red lagoon

    The VLT Survey Telescope at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula, released on Jan. 22. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of 11 public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. (ESO/VPHAS team) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fire on the mountain

    This image provided by NASA shows a satellite view of smoke from the Colby Fire, taken by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer aboard NASA's Terra spacecraft as it passed over Southern California on Jan. 16. The fire burned more than 1,863 acres and forced the evacuation of 3,700 people. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket rises from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va, on Jan. 9. The rocket sent Orbital's Cygnus cargo capsule on its first official resupply mission to the International Space Station. (Chris Perry / NASA) Back to slideshow navigation
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    This long-exposure picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, released Jan. 8, is the deepest image ever made of any cluster of galaxies. The cluster known as Abell 2744 appears in the foreground. It contains several hundred galaxies as they looked 3.5 billion years ago. Abell 2744 acts as a gravitational lens to warp space, brightening and magnifying images of nearly 3,000 distant background galaxies. The more distant galaxies appear as they did more than 12 billion years ago, not long after the Big Bang. (NASA / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Frosty halo

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    Slideshow: The Year in Space (Brian Peterson / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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