An approaching asteroid was the topic of a law school debate held last week. An approaching asteroid was the topic of a law school debate held last week. An approaching asteroid was the topic of a law school debate held last week. (Photo: Muratart / Shutterstock)

Space conference ends with a big bang

Yikes! An asteroid is headed straight toward Earth. What should we do?

An action hero like Bruce Willis may have the skill set and gumption to land on a fast-approaching asteroid and prevent it from colliding with Earth. But it was more brain than brawn that was on display last week when law school students debated this hypothetical question: What happens if someone intentionally diverts an asteroid into international air space?

An oncoming asteroid took center stage as students from 60 law schools around the world gathered at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for the 24th annual Moot Court World Finals. The University of Mississippi won the competition, and it was the school's first international moot court championship. Runners-up included students from Greece and India.

The theoretical asteroid conundrum capped off the week-long International Astronautical Congress in Israel, where scientists discussed everything from Mars travel to civilian space travel. The conference, organized by the Paris-based International Astronautical Federation, hosted 2,000 scientific demonstrations.

A constellation of news came out of the event: The Israel Space Agency (ISA) signed up to help NASA with a journey to Mars. That partnership will include joint missions between the two countries as well as sharing facilities and personnel. Most important, NASA will now have access to Israeli-made Mars equipment, which is known for being light in weight and energy efficient. Also at the conference, Israel entered into a cooperative agreement with France's space agency to help build a new satellite that can better withstand extreme conditions outside Earth's orbit.

Legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin was the keynote speaker at the event, where he talked about his life's new mission to colonize Mars. The rocket man, who was the first to train underwater to simulate weightlessness in space during Gemini 12, took the opportunity to go scuba diving in Israel's coastal city of Eilat. "My favorite thing to do on this planet is to scuba dive," Aldrin said.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin shows off his mission to Mars T-shirt at the space conference in Israel.Astronaut Buzz Aldrin shows off his mission to Mars T-shirt at the space conference in Israel. (Photo: Courtesy Buzz Aldrin)

Days before the conference began, space news was already trickling out of the Mediterranean country. Google announced that a group of engineers from Israel will become the first privately funded team to make a lunar landing. The team will become only the fourth country to ever land on the moon after the United States, Russia and China.

As this event comes to a close, more are already on the horizon. A new conference on space-based innovation begins tomorrow in Berlin, Germany. That will be followed by upcoming events in Lake Placid, New York, and Geneva, Switzerland. After wrapping up in Jerusalem, the International Astronautical Federation announced that it will hold its big annual conference next fall in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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