Tackling our planet’s problems from outer space
By Simonetta Di Pippo
Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
In the sixty years since the space age began with the launch of Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite, humankind has achieved remarkable progress in the exploration and use of outer space. This would not have been possible without international cooperation.
With more and more countries, organizations and companies accessing space and its economic and societal benefits, international cooperation to ensure the safe, secure and sustainable use of outer space now and in the future is more crucial today than ever before. That is why diplomatic efforts at the United Nations to drive forward such cooperation are so vital.
From 18 to 21 June, the world will gather in Vienna for UNISPACE+50, the first United Nations global space summit of the twenty-first century, organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). This will be only the fourth time in history that government representatives join heads of space agencies, policy-makers, industry representatives and other stakeholders at the United Nations on a large scale. Our top priority will be to look for ways to use space to improve lives around the world and protect our planet.
A lot has changed since the first UNISPACE conference was held in 1968. Today, space is big business. Last year the global space sector was estimated to be worth USD $330 billion. Access to space is also growing rapidly. Over 70 United Nations Member States now have established government space agencies. This is complemented by an ever-increasing number of private companies and industry. In 2017, a year in which the world placed over 450 new satellites – a record number – in orbit, commercial entities conducted just under half of all launches.
All this activity is being fueled by the fact that space is now a cornerstone of our modern society. We rely on space science and technology in a number of ways in our everyday lives. It helps us navigate when we are driving and enables us to call our friends and families around the world. Satellite technology can even help track endangered species like rhinoceroses to protect them from poachers, or provide imagery and data to farmers to help them monitor their crops, improve their yield, and avoid food shortages. Space is an invaluable tool for achieving sustainable development across the globe, and so it is important that everyone can access and enjoy the benefits that space brings to us all.
In light of this, UNISPACE+50 will be a timely opportunity for the world to both reflect on our achievements in space over the past six decades and to look to the future. At UNISPACE+50, United Nations Member States will endorse a resolution that calls for strengthened international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space and the global governance of outer space activities, and which encourages coordination to ensure that space science, technology and applications serve the Sustainable Development Goals.
In the 21st century, space is essential to all of humankind, so it is important that the international community works together on the future of space activities. We at UNOOSA are looking forward to welcoming the world to UNISPACE+50 and providing such a valuable platform under the umbrella of the United Nations to ensure that space benefits everyone, everywhere, for generations to come.