Space collage
Photo: UN Photo and Roscosmos/Oleg Artemyev, Anatoli Ivanishin, Sergey Prokopyev, Aleksandr Samokutyayev, Anton Shkaplerov, Oleg Skripochka, Fyodor Yurchikhin

The beginning of the space era for mankind

The General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/65/271 of 7 April 2011, declared 12 April as the International Day of Human Space Flight “to celebrate each year at the international level the beginning of the space era for mankind, reaffirming the important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples, as well as ensuring the realization of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.”

12 April 1961 was the date of the first human space flight, carried out by Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet citizen. This historic event opened the way for space exploration for the benefit of all humanity.

The General Assembly expressed its deep conviction of the common interest of mankind in promoting and expanding the exploration and use of outer space, as the province of all mankind, for peaceful purposes and in continuing efforts to extend to all States the benefits derived there from.

The Voyager Golden Record: A reminder that we are all connected

The Voyager Golden Record shot into space in 1977 with a message from humanity to the cosmos – and decades later, it stands as a reminder that we are all connected. The United Nations displays a replica of the Golden Record at its Headquarters, and shares a deep connection to the process of creating it. A NASA committee asked the UN to provide materials to include on the playlist, and the first words on the Record itself are those of the then-UN Secretary-General expressing hope for peace and friendship with whoever discovers and plays it. Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” CEO of the Planetary Society, walks viewers through how to decipher the Golden Record, its significance today, and how reverence for the universe can inspire action for our planet. This aligns with the ongoing work of the United Nations to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space. The Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, Simonetta Di Pippo, explains the significance of the Golden Record in our world now. “The undertaking of the Voyager project reminds us of who we are, where we came from, and that we should treat each other with care.”

Background

On 4 October 1957 the first human-made Earth satellite Sputnik I was launched into outer space, thus opening the way for space exploration. On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth, opening a new chapter of human endeavour in outer space.

The Declaration further recalls “the amazing history of human presence in outer space and the remarkable achievements since the first human spaceflight, in particular Valentina Tereshkova becoming the first woman to orbit the Earth on 16 June 1963, Neil Armstrong becoming the first human to set foot upon the surface of the Moon on 20 July 1969, and the docking of the Apollo and Soyuz spacecrafts on 17 July 1975, being the first international human mission in space, and recall that for the past decade humanity has maintained a multinational permanent human presence in outer space aboard the International Space Station.”

UN and Space

From the very beginning of the Space Age, the United Nations recognized that outer space added a new dimension to humanity's existence. The United Nations family strives continuously to utilize the unique benefits of outer space for the betterment of all humankind.

Recognizing the common interest of humankind in outer space and seeking to answer questions on how outer space can help benefit the people's of Earth, the General Asssembly adopted its first resolution related to outer space, resolution 1348 (XIII) entitled "Question of the Peaceful Use of Outer Space".

On 10 October 1967, the "Magna Carta of Space", also known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies entered into force.

Today, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is the United Nations office responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. UNOOSA serves as the secretariat for the General Assembly's only committee dealing exclusively with international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space: the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space(COPUOS).

UNOOSA is also responsible for implementing the Secretary-General's responsibilities under international space law and maintaining the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.

To learn more, view the timeline.

 

Our Planet Earth

In an awestruck manner, seventeen astronauts and cosmonauts from ten countries describe their perceptions of Earth as seen from space. Watch the documentary produced in July 1990.

Resources

International Instruments

Principles Adopted by the UN General Assembly

UN System

Related Observances

International Day of Human Space Flight

United Nations Champion for Space Scott Kelly and UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo discuss International Day of Human Space Flight and UNOOSA's work.

 

China Space Station

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) in cooperation with the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) launched the programme, which capitalizes on the technological and innovative skills of the Government of China to benefit Member States of the United Nations, in particular developing countries, thereby contributing to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through increasing access to space.

 

Dream Chaser Vehicle

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is partnering with the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to offer United Nations Member States the opportunity to participate in an orbital space mission utilizing SNC's Dream Chaser® space vehicle. The mission will carry experiments, payloads, or satellites provided by institutions in the participating countries.

 

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.