UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Ambassador Davies Remarks to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
Ambassador Glyn T. Davies
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office In Vienna
June 1, 2011

The Space Age began as a struggle for security and prestige between two competitors: the Soviet Union and the United States.  Today, American astronauts, Russian cosmonauts, and spacefarers from dozen of partner nations in Europe, Asia, and North America live and work together on the International Space Station. In the last 50 years, in fact, men and women from nearly 40 nations have embarked on voyages dedicated to the peaceful exploration of outer space.  In the coming years, there will be more.

That is the great accomplishment of recent history in space.  No longer do adversaries compete for primacy in the Cosmos.  Now all mankind collaborates to expand human horizons.  We work together to promote peaceful cooperation in spaceflight, to expand our capacity to operate in Earth orbit and beyond.

It is a remarkable accomplishment of which we should all be proud.  And our success at transforming the nature of our exploration beyond the confines of our planet has reflected a strong, steady light of hope and peace back onto the earth itself.  If cooperation in space can upend the superpower competition that began the Space Age, might not other great collaborative ventures result in similar triumphs of the human spirit?

For 50 years the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has enjoyed great success in stimulating international space cooperation and in bringing the benefits of space exploration to a wide range of people and nations around the globe.

Terrestrial navigation, disaster response and mitigation, global search and rescue, weather and climate monitoring all depend upon space technology and assets as well as the sharing of data from those assets. This Committee has played a vital role in establishing the framework for international cooperation on these matters.

COPUOS’s work was critical to the development of the major space treaties that underpin space activities today.  This work continues as the Committee adopts new agenda items to address our evolving and expanding use of space into the future.  Its success is testimony both to the international coalition that brought it into existence and to the commitment of its member states to its essential mission.

Beyond these practical considerations, human spaceflight has altered our collective frame of reference.  Those who have traveled into space share the privilege of seeing Earth as one world, one ecosystem, humanity’s one home, seemingly insignificant against the backdrop of the Universe, yet uniquely precious.  The lesson their experience conveys to us is one of peace and cooperation in space, this Committee’s raison d’être.

The 50th anniversary of human spaceflight is a proper occasion to reflect upon humanity’s spacefaring achievements.  Over 500 people, from all six inhabited continents, have flown in space.  There have been over 280 human spaceflight missions, including nine to the moon, where the footprints of 12 humans linger in the lunar dust, footprints that will last for millions of years.

This year marks 30 years of Space Shuttle operations, ferrying crew and cargo to and from space.  The International Space Station stands out as the most ambitious international engineering project to date, and as the most enduring international space effort.
With the assembly of the International Space Station at completion, and a full-time crew of six, a new era of utilization for research is beginning.  We expect its operations to continue until at least 2020.  Just last year, the Heads of 30 space agencies took the stage together to celebrate the space achievements of all nations, underscoring their ongoing commitment to cooperation in space exploration.  It is the unique blend of unified and diversified goals among the world’s space-faring nations that will lead to improvements of life on Earth for people of all nations.

This is also a proper occasion to renew our commitment to realizing our common aspirations.  When we consider just how far we have come, we can imagine what we may achieve 50 years hence, on the occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of COPUOS and human spaceflight.  Our technology has freed us from the tyranny of gravity; our commitment to international fora such as COPUOS frees us to dream of a boundless future in space for humankind, a future free of earthbound tyranny and mistrust.

COPUOS should continue in its role to stimulate international cooperation, helping nations work together to develop the technologies we need to take humans beyond earth orbit and on to other planets. Continued and expanded cooperation in human space exploration means all nations—space-faring or not—will find their horizons broadened, their knowledge enhanced, and their lives improved.