UN names former astronaut Scott Kelly as ‘Champion for Space’

Astronaut Scott Kelly the United Nations Champion for Space (left) and Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Simonetta Di Pippo. Photo: UNOOSA

21 November 2016 – As part of a high-level United Nations forum under way in the United Arab Emirates aimed at exploring the role of space in socio-economic and sustainable development, the UN appointment of astronaut Scott Kelly as ‘United Nations Champion for Space.’

The High-Level Forum on Space as a Driver for Socio-Economic Sustainable Development, which opened in Dubai yesterday and runs through Thursday, 24 November, brings together more than 100 participants including heads of space agencies, government representatives, astronauts and academics.

In a message sent to the gathering, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Kim Wonsoo, underlined “the application of space science and technology is essential to the advancement of humankind and the successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.”

The Forum has been organized by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) – the Vienna-based UN entity promoting international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space – in partnership with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency.

Also, speaking at the opening, UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo described the gathering as “a great opportunity” to focus on the potential of space technology and innovations for addressing new and emerging sustainable development challenges.

“This Forum is indeed a great start to the process of enhancing the cooperation and coordination of our community, and expanding to other users communities, with a particular focus on the space sector for the economy, society and development of all nations,” she said.

Throughout its five-day run, the Forum will consist of panel discussions, round tables and presentations organized around four themes: space economy, space society, space accessibility and space diplomacy.

It is the also the first in a series of three forums ahead of UNISPACE+50 in June 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Former US astronaut appointed the first UN Champion for Space

The first day of Forum also saw the appointment of former astronaut Scott Kelly of the United States as the UN Champion for Space.

Mr. Kelly holds the record for the most cumulative number of days spent in space by an American astronaut on board the International Space Station.

“It’s an honour to be the first person to be able to serve in this role, to be an advocate for space flight and how important it is to our species, to our future, to our economies around the world; how it gives us this unique place that is a common ground where all countries can come together and do something for the common good of us all,” he told UN News Centre.

Over the next two years, Mr. Kelly, known for his “year in space,” will help the UN promote space as a tool for achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We are thrilled and honoured to have Mr. Kelly's support as United Nations Champion for Space. In this role, Mr. Kelly will combine his demonstrated passion for making our world a better place with his expertise and experience in space. I look forward to working with Mr. Kelly to bring global attention to the important role that space can play in sustainable development,” said Ms. Di Pippo.

The Champion for Space role is based on the UN Messengers of Peace model, whereby distinguished individuals agree to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the UN.

Other prominent UN Messengers of Peace include actor Leonardo DiCaprio (climate change), primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall (conservation), and singer Stevie Wonder (persons with disabilities).


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