Status Report

United Nations: Cold War Space Race Is Over; We All Won

By SpaceRef Editor
April 12, 2011
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United Nations: Cold War Space Race Is Over; We All Won

Resolution Taken up on Initiative of Russian Federation, ‘Cold War Space Race Is Over; We All Won,’ Says United States Representative

An annual International Day of Human Space Flight was declared by the General Assembly this afternoon, to be celebrated on 12 April, the date of the first manned space flight in 1961.

By to a new resolution adopted unanimously by the world body (document A/65/L.67), the first International Day in 2011 would mark the fiftieth anniversary of the flight of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and reaffirm “the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples”.

The International Day would also serve to further the aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes, according to the Assembly, which noted through the resolution that the fiftieth anniversary of its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space would be commemorated this year as well.

In opening remarks, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss said the first manned space flight had marked an essential stage in the history of technological progress. The Russian Federation’s initiative to propose that the International Day be held on 12 April paid homage to Yuri Gagarin and his pioneering space team. The subsequent adventures in space brought benefits to such fields as meteorology, agriculture, telecoms, biology and physics. Today, a space station brought together people of different nationalities.

The international community should ensure that outer space was explored and used for peaceful purposes, he said. During his flight on Vostok 1, Mr. Gagarin was amazed to see that “our planet is blue” and it was a collective responsibility to ensure that it remained that way. Space technology was being used in the fight against a host of ecological ills, including climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss, and the United Nations’ work should be strengthened to ensure the peaceful use of outer space.

Introducing the resolution, entitled “International Day of Human Space Flight”, Vitaly I. Churkin, of the Russian Federation, said his country was proud that the most decisive step in space exploration had been made by Yuri Gagarin, whose flight had become one of the most striking events of the twentieth century. In the past 50 years, cosmonautics had become a privileged area of foremost achievements, marked by space walks and the creation of orbital space stations, among others. Equally important was that outer space was now a platform for a close and fruitful cooperation for the benefit of universal peace and development.

Indeed, great interest had arisen from the launch of the first artificial satellite, he said, and news of the first space flight had been met with much enthusiasm. Such events would not have been possible without cooperation and the drawing-up of rules and laws for the use of outer space. In 1959, the United Nations reacted to such trends by setting up the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. “Together we must carry out a great deal of work to ensure space is used for the progress of mankind,” he said, noting that the text would not require additional financial provisions.

Following the action, the representatives of Hungary (on behalf of the European Union), China, Brazil, Italy, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Viet Nam, India, United States, Belarus, Armenia, Mongolia and the Republic of Moldova welcomed the Declaration of the International Day, commemorated Yuri Gagarin, other space explorers and the fiftieth anniversary of the first human space flight and affirmed the importance of the peaceful uses of outer space for the benefit of all humankind.

Some speakers enumerated those beneficial uses. Brazil’s representative cited weather forecasting, disaster mitigation, environmental protection, provision of humanitarian aid, controlling epidemics, facilitating long-distance education, supporting sustainable development and generation of new products and services in communication and navigation.

Cuba’s representative, however, warned that there was an arms race being conducted by some countries in outer space, and said that international cooperation must be strengthened to make sure that space technology served all countries and their development.

Other speakers enumerated existing cooperation. The representative of the United States said that today the cold war “space race is over and we have all won”. The representative of Hungary noted that Europe, in partnership with the Russian Federation, United States, Japan and Canada, was participating in the International Space Station. Working through the European Space Agency, Europe was also responsible for the Columbus Laboratory and the Automated Transfer Vehicle, two key Station elements.

In that context, he said it was important to enhance the multilateral framework concerning the preservation of a peaceful, safe and secure environment in outer space. To that end, the European Union promoted the elaboration of an international and voluntary Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, which should, among other things, limit or minimize harmful interference, collisions and debris in space.

Some speakers also detailed their space-related activities, with developed and developing countries describing partnerships they had entered into for that purpose. In that vein, Viet Nam described the flight of the first Vietnamese cosmonaut, Pham Tuan, in partnership with the Soviets. The representative of Kazakhstan noted that her country housed the launch facility from which Mr. Gagarin and many other cosmonauts were sent aloft and was now focused on developing its national space programme. India’s representative described his country’s moon research.

Italy’s representative noted that his country was the third to launch a satellite, besides having had a long history of astronomical study, including the work of Galileo. That representative also evoked the poetic depictions of the heavens that came from his country, including those of Dante: “Then we came forth, to see again the stars.”

Also this afternoon, the General Assembly rose for a moment of silence in honour of United Nations staff killed and wounded recently in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti and Cote d’Ivoire.

The General Assembly will meet again at a time and place to be announced.

SpaceRef staff editor.