The 59th Session of UN COPUOS
VIENNA — At the 59th session of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), China caught the general interest with its new agreement concluded with the UN OOSA (Office for Outer Space Affairs) for international cooperation in manned space programs on board the future Chinese space station.
Dumitru-Dorin Prunariu, former chairman of COPUOS, who has been representing Romania and the Association of Space Explorers within COPUOS for the last 24 years, stated that many countries like India are advancing in space technology. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) built by India is a space probe that has been orbiting Mars since September, 2014. It was launched in November, 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and it is India’s first interplanetary mission and cost only $73 million, the least expensive Mars mission to date. By contrast NASA’s Mars Scout Program, which spawned MAVEN mission to Mars cost up to $671 million. The United Arab Emirates set up their Space Agency in 2014, joined the UN COPUOS in 2015 and are preparing a probe mission to Mars, set to arrive in 2021.
Other countries, with limited resources but desire to have access to space technology for sustainable development, have access to UN regional training centers for space science and technology education in each region covered by the United Nations Economic Commissions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Western Asia.
Each center should offer the education, research and applications programs and opportunities and experience to the participants in its programs. The goal of each center is the development of the skills and knowledge of university educators and research and applications scientists, through theory, research, applications, field exercises, and pilot projects in those areas of space science and technology that can contribute to sustainable development in each country.
“China is so dynamic in space and more recently open to international cooperation in manned space flights,” says Prunariu. It could offer an advantage for other space-faring nations not having their own means to send people to outer space: “China has made a detailed presentation of its manned space flights. Offering three very well defined types: individual flights, flights aboard experimental space modules to a space lab, in order to test all the operations such as rendezvous, docking, fuelling, coupling of the future space station, and operations on the Chinese space station that will be operational for many years. Assembling in space will start in 2018 and end in 2022.
“As international cooperation is vital for the development of cosmonautics and for the peaceful use of the outer space, China has proposed to host international crews aboard its space station, trained in China, on Chinese space-crafts, but having the possibility to make scientific experiments in space on behalf of their own nations or the international organizations they represent. A distinct element in this cooperation, unlike previous cooperation with the former USSR or with NASA, is that China has proposed that this cooperation for manned missions be made under the umbrella of the UN. UNOOSA has already concluded two agreements with the Chinese Space Agency in this respect. Cooperation involves two dimensions: country– UN and UN-China. The UN has signed an agreement with China to make operational the manned flights performed by UN countries with China. These countries will get involved in space programs that have been agreed to by the UN, and will benefit from the advantages made available by China in order to make experiments in the outer space.”
Prunariu says that young European astronauts are currently learning Chinese, just like his generation was learning Russian, because Chinese programs may be the future for many astronauts: “What China does on its own, with its own rockets, space-crafts launched from their own cosmodromes, is very special.”
Indeed, the presentation of the Chinese manned space flights was impressive, even for experts, who recognize the financial and human effort. So far, China has carried out 11 spaceflight missions, 5 of which were manned missions, sending 10 visitors and 12 Chinese astronauts into space and returning them safely.
The delegation of the Russian Federation made a presentation of Space Debris, Space Operations and Tools to Support Collaborative Space Situational Awareness, stressing the importance of sharing information on objects and events in space and the deficiencies in this field, the lack of a unified international cataloguing and identification mechanism for space objects and the lack of merged information coming from various sources. “No State in the world is currently able to provide a complete and constantly updated picture of the situation in orbit on its own. Thus, there is an objective need to combine capabilities in this area,” said Victor Shillin, researcher form the Russian Academy of Science.
Dr Dava Newman, NASA Deputy Administrator, made a presentation about the Journey to Mars via Global Space Cooperation.
African countries are end-users of space technology to meet domestic needs such as the remote sensing for identification of water sources, and natural resources. Alaa El Nahry from Egypt presented Egypt’s use of satellites to identify water sources and the plan to launch 5 nano-satellites in 2017 to 2022.
The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, COPUOS, was set up by the General Assembly of the UN in 1959 to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity: for peace, security and development. The task of the Committee is to review international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, to study space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, to encourage space research programmes, and to study the legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. From 24 member states in 1959, it currently has 84 members and 33 observers including non-governmental and inter-governmental professional organizations. The Association of Space Explorers, ASE, is the international professional association of astronauts, including over 400 astronauts from 37 countries.