Value, Inherent Risks of Space Technology Spotlighted in Fourth Committee, with Emphasis on Equal Access to Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes

12 October 2011
GA/SPD/484

Value, Inherent Risks of Space Technology Spotlighted in Fourth Committee, with Emphasis on Equal Access to Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes

12 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/SPD/484
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

8th Meeting (AM)

Value, Inherent Risks of Space Technology Spotlighted in Fourth Committee,

 

with Emphasis on Equal Access to Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes

 

Space science and technology could significantly improve living conditions, conserve natural resources, and enhance natural disaster preparedness in developing countries, the Fourth Committee was told today as it continued its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand’s representative said the ASEAN Subcommittee on Space Technology and Application (SCOSA) had been working to formulate a framework for enhancing collaboration between space technology and disaster management.  SCOSA and its remote sensing partner had provided valuable data during the 2004 tsunami, Padang earthquake and Luzon typhoons.

However, it was also important to bear in mind the inherent risks of space technology, he said.  Last month’s fall from the sky of the six-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite had caused public alarm and revealed gaps in the ability to predict where the pieces would land.  Additionally, there was an increasing number of space objects in orbit, including space debris.

During the morning’s debate, delegations stressed that access to outer space should be given to all States for peaceful purposes, regardless of their level of economic or scientific development.

Syria’s representative said the many recent tragedies of natural disasters revealed the need to step up activities towards a world system that would underpin disaster management through a space monitoring regime, such as the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).  Nations around the world must share in those tools and experiences, and be provided access to data at a reasonable cost, in due time, and without discrimination.

The effectiveness of satellite technology in mitigating natural disasters had been particularly apparent in the case of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami in March of this year, said that country’s delegate, expressing appreciation for the heartfelt support provided to Japan in the disaster’s aftermath.  He said that the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) had contributed actively to the wide-ranging efforts for search, rescue and restoration in the country.

Several delegates remarked on the fiftieth anniversary, not just of the creation of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), but of the first manned space expedition.  The representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to that flight, of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961, which heralded “an important breakthrough” in humankind’s exploration of space and opened new horizons for space research in space.  That flight had also confirmed the basis of cooperation between States for the use of space for peaceful purposes.  He noted the decision to make 12 April the International Day of Human Space Flight.

At the same time, however, he said it was important to stop the militarization of space.  China’s delegation, along with a number of other speakers, this morning, agreed.  He said that outer space law was an essential guarantee for building a harmonious space and preventing its weaponization.

Also speaking were the representatives of Libya, Iran, Mexico, Argentina, and Burkina Faso.

A representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See also spoke.

The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 13 October, to continue its debate on outer space issues.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  For background of the report before the Committee, document A/66/20, see Press Release GA/SPD/483.

Statements

JAKKRIT SRIVALI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that the application of space science and technology could contribute significantly to improving living conditions, conserving natural resources, and enhancing natural disaster preparedness in developing countries.  ASEAN looked forward to constructive cooperation from the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF).  The ASEAN Subcommittee on Space Technology and Application (SCOSA) had been working to formulate a framework for enhancing collaboration between space technology and disaster management.  SCOSA and its remote sensing partner had provided valuable data during the 2004 tsunami, Padang earthquake, and Luzon typhoons.  ASEAN welcomed the initiative to establish regional offices of the UN-SPIDER.

He said it was also important to bear in mind the inherent risks of space technology.  Last month’s fall from the sky of the six-ton Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite had caused public alarm and revealed gaps in the ability to predict where the pieces would land.  Another concern was the increasing number of space objects in orbit, including space debris.  ASEAN supported the endorsement by the General Assembly of the Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

Speaking on behalf of the Thai delegation, he added that his country hoped to collaborate further with relevant organizations such as APRSAF, Group on Earth Observations, and Committee on Earth Observation Satellites.  Thailand had also actively organized various seminars and conferences on the subject, as well as used satellite communication for purposes such as distance learning.

IHAB HAMED ( Syria) said the Committee had an essential role to play in regard to preserving space for peaceful uses through the work it conducted in scientific areas.  The use of arms in space should be discouraged, and the militarization of space should be brought to an end.  Access to outer space should be given to all States for peaceful purposes, regardless of their level of economic or scientific development.

He welcomed the fact that the report before the Committee emphasized the use of satellite data in the context of sustainable development, and stressed that equal access to such data should be provided to all countries.  There were many applications of space technologies useful in Syria, including assessment of volcanic risks and the provision of overviews for archaeological sites.  Arab regional cooperation was important, and in that regard, Syria was concluding a series of cooperation agreements with international and Arabic centres of research and holding training workshops.

He also drew attention to the devastating effects of natural disasters, as felt in many regions, and extended solidarity to all countries that had been subjected to them.  Those tragedies had revealed the need to step up activities towards a world system that would underpin disaster management through a space monitoring regime, such as UN-SPIDER.  Nations around the world must share in those tools and experiences, and be provided access to data at a reasonable cost, in due time, and without discrimination.  The promotion of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space was a pressing issue in the world today, and the international community must do all it could to further that agenda.

FADEL A. BEN ASHOOR ( Libya) said that the Committee must promote and enhance the current legal system on outer space.  The outer space environment should be protected against pollution and man-made changes.  The Committee was urged to implement a legal instrument for managing the best way to explore outer space.  It was necessary to define outer space as well as its limits.  Libya insisted on the need for exploration of outer space for peaceful means, while taking into consideration principles, such as access to outer spacer on equal footing between States, non-ownership of outer space, and its non-militarization.

He also emphasised the need to strengthen cooperation between States that had space activities under way, as well as with other countries that were trying to gain the necessary scientific expertise.  In the exchange of knowledge and experience between States in the peaceful use of outer space, complementarity should trump competition.  In that regard, Libya welcomed the holding of the international conference on space affairs in Cape Town, South Africa, involving many young people and researchers.  The conference had sought to establish specific terminology in the area of outer space in the main African languages.

Libya, he added, was concerned about the use of nuclear resources in outer space, and urged countries that used those resources to present comprehensive and transparent information on their activities.  Libya was also concerned about spatial debris, which especially threatened countries in the equatorial region.  He urged COPUOS to establish legally binding rules regarding spatial debris.

Further, Libya encouraged developed countries to share their knowledge and urged them not to monopolize or commercialize their space science expertise. Early and rapid warning systems were crucial to mitigate disasters and must not be based on political considerations. In that regard, Libya was pleased with the activity of the SPIDER programme regarding early warning systems.

He concluded that Libya had had a number of scientific activities under way, which had not been fully harnessed under the previous regime.  However, the new democratic Libya would ensure that those efforts in the area of outer space science realized their full potential.

YASUSHI HORIKAWA ( Japan) expressed appreciation for all the support Japan had received in the weeks and months after the great earthquake in his country earlier this year.  He was sincerely grateful for the heartfelt support and encouragement extended to Japan in that regard.

He noted the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of COPUOS and the first manned space flight.  When the enormous earthquake had struck north-eastern Japan in March, the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) had contributed actively to the wide-ranging efforts of search, rescue and restoration.  The disaster management function of GNSS was outstanding, and its expected contribution to the advancement of human security was highly anticipated.  Japan placed high importance on the activities of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum, as one model for regional space cooperation.  His country would continue to promote the activities of Sentinel Asia initiative for disaster management using satellites.  Satellite images were provided through Sentinel Asia in support of the rescue efforts in Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami.  Images had been provided mainly through the Advanced Land Observing Satellite.

For its part, Japan had been contributing to the Information Satellite Systems (ISS) from the beginning, he said.  Its station was one of the most iconic international cooperation programmes for the peaceful uses of outer space.  Japan was using the Japanese experimental module Kibo, which was named for the word “hope”, to conduct various on-orbit experiments.  Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata would be the commander of the ISS from 2013 — the first Asian astronaut to have that role.

ESHAGH AL HABIB ( Iran) said that outer space was the common heritage of all mankind and must be explored and used exclusively for peaceful purposes, without discrimination.  Iran was convinced that international endeavours to promote peaceful use of outer space must be supported by initiatives to prevent a possible arms race.  Iran had prioritized capacity-building and sustainable development of outer space, conducting various regional workshops over the past years.  With the cooperation of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), several workshops on space law and the applications of space technology had been organized.

Iran, he said, had been among the countries who had actively contributed to the establishment of Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO).  On the UN-SPIDER programme, he expressed satisfaction on “the progressive trend of its implementation”.  Iran had partnered actively with UNOOSA in the region to implement the SPIDER programme.

He added that Iran had made remarkable achievements in space science and technology.  Those included the launch of the second indigenously made Satellite Launch Vehicle, named SAFIR-2, carrying Iran’s first-ever home-built telecommunication satellite, on 2 February 2009, and its successful placement in the low Earth orbit.  Iran had also inaugurated the Space Structure Laboratory and Aerospace Centre in January 2011.  Four national satellites had been unveiled, which would enable meteorological uses, such as identifying sea borders, remote measuring, and receiving remote sensing images.

RODRIGO PINTADO ( Mexico) said this year the work of the Committee on Outer Space was particularly timely, given the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Committee and the first manned space flight.  The principle of outer space on an equal footing for all States regardless of their degree of economic and technological advancement should continue to underpin the work of the United Nations on the subject.  Only through regional and international cooperation would it be possible to develop space activities that were acceptable to all.

He said that the Space Conference of the Americas was a mechanism that had been constantly developing since its establishment in the 1990s.  It encouraged the development of space legislation and strengthened education and training programmes in space science and technology.  The Conference had made it possible to identify strategic actions of a regional nature to further promote space science and technology, and prevent and mitigate natural disasters, promote tele-health and education training programmes, and contribute to economic growth and the social development of countries in the region.

The Mexican space agency had engaged in space activities and involved the regional centre for teaching space science and technology in Latin America and the Caribbean.  The Conference had ended in the Pachuca Declaration, outlining the pillars of space policy in the region for the coming years.

ZHOU LIPENG ( China) said that his country’s space industry had continued its dynamic momentum over the past five decades.  The global networking project of the Beidou navigation satellite system had made steady progress and China had successfully launched the Tiangong-1.  The Chinese Government attached great importance to the conversion of space technology for practical applications in mapping, fishery, meteorology, and disaster prevention.

Space exploration and exploitation, he added, must aim to achieve inclusive development so that its benefits could reach all countries.  With the increase of space-faring parties and the expansion of frontiers for space explorations, the space environment was getting increasingly congested.  It was important to conduct space activities in harmony and protect our common space environment.

Space development was uneven among countries, he pointed out.  Countries with inadequate space capabilities were not only incapable of conducting space activities but also incapable of enjoying the benefits brought about by space technology.  Greater efforts were needed to enable those countries to participate in space programmes.  It was also important to let the people of less developed countries experience space exploration so that everyone could have the opportunity to appreciate the “magnificence and profundity” of space.

The Outer Space Law was an essential guarantee for building a harmonious space, preventing the weaponization of outer space and achieving its sustainable development.  He concluded that China would continue to uphold the concept of harmonious outer space and had committed itself to the inclusive development of outer space in keeping with the principles of peace, cooperation, and the rule of law.

ANDRE KALININ ( Russian Federation) said this year was marked significantly as, when 50 years ago, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin carried out the first piloted space flight, which was an important breakthrough in humankind’s exploration of space.  It opened new horizons for research in space, and confirmed the basis of cooperation between States for the use of space for peaceful purposes.  Now, more than 40 countries had sent representatives of space.  He mentioned the initiative to make 12 April the International Day of Human Space Flight, which had been declared earlier this year by the United Nations.

He said that the number of participants engaged in space activities increased every year.  However, it was important to stop the militarization of space and its pollution by debris.  Those were key points, which, over the long term, would guarantee that the whole population of the planet could enjoy the sustainable benefits of accessing space.  It was a top priority of the Russian Federation to promote the use of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and cooperation in the areas of fundamental and applied space science.  Apart from actively participating in a variety of space-related organizations and bodies, the Russian Federation was also contributing to the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), and other structures involved in space activities.

GERARDO DIAZ BARTOLOME( Argentina), aligning himself with the statement of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), emphasized that outer space should be used rationally and for peaceful purposes.  Space technology applications must benefit all humanity.  Hence, universal access to space data was necessary.

He said that was not just a matter of technological development, but also of sustainable development.  Argentina maintained that the use of outer space should be equitable, and it was essential to observe international law to regulate all space activities.  Argentina was proud to recognize the recent entry into orbit of the Argentine satellite Aquarius, a triumph of Argentine space technology.  The satellite would enable measuring the salinity of the surface of the oceans and formulating climate models which could also help produce early warning of floods.

Argentina was also developing a National Commission for Space Activities in cooperation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States, and collaborating with Italian, French, Canadian, and other space agencies.  The Argentine satellite was the fourth of the series developed by the Argentine agency.  Made with highly complex instruments, it had increased capability to gather information.

Pointing out that clearly, international cooperation had contributed to the development of space science and technology in Argentina, he concluded that it was important to exchange knowledge and expertise between countries on a mutually acceptable basis.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said the great takeoff in space activities and their applications in many areas had been very convincing as to their inestimable contribution to the well-being of humanity.  However, there were serious concerns linked to preserving the space environment.  For that, it was important to strengthen international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space.  He commended the usefulness of COPUOUS, as its commitment had broadly contributed to regulating all space activities, in particular the non-pollution and non-militarization of space.

As a member of COPUOS, Burkina Faso reaffirmed commitment to strengthening the fruitful cooperation it had with all of the space community.  The recurrence of natural disasters striking countries worldwide, meant that the international community should make the most of space technologies and strengthen regional and interregional cooperation.  In that regard, he commended the organization of an event in Ouagadougou in partnership with UN-SPIDER for awareness-raising on the use of space data.  That event had been a great success, and had provided a good context for raising the awareness of decision makers of the importance and usefulness of space techniques and technologies.

VITTORIO CANUTO (Holy See) said that he wished to make an historical note, having spent more than 20 years in COPUOS.  On a cold February afternoon in 1988, the Holy See had brought the issue of space debris to the attention of the Committee.  His speech “was received with the loudest silence” he had ever heard.  The issue was not well known then.  Given the relevance of the issue today, he said, it was important to note again that in the future, the amount of space debris would increase.  There was no technology for cleaning up thousands of space debris.  As a result, the international community would face a problem whose scale could not now be known.  Also, the debris travelled around the orbit at the rate of several kilometres per second.  That would certainly cause a high level of impact during collisions.

Therefore, he added, he was pleased to note that representatives of Thailand and Libya had cited space debris in their speeches.  The Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines were an important initiative.  The more outer space was used, the more “space junk” would be left behind.  He hoped that the collective wisdom of the Committee would find a solution to that problem.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.