UNCOPUOS (54th Session – 2017)

I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend the 54th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) as part of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) delegation.

I have been part of the SGAC for three years in my role as the National Point of Contact for the UK, but only in this year have I been able to attend the STSC. For the first two years I had still been working full-time as a Teacher of Science and therefore unable to take time off during term time.

Since its founding in 1999 at the UNISPACE III conference in Vienna, SGAC has been linked closely to UNOOSA. It is currently a Permanent Observer at the UNCOPUOS and continues to represent the voice of young people at high level fora with regards to space policy and law.

This year’s STSC from the 30th January to 10th February was no different.

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There were many engaging and informative Technical Presentations covering a wide array of topics including Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), space accessibility, satellites for disaster management and international collaborations for research and education.

The International Astronautical Federation (IAF) organised a symposium on “What is at stake in space in 2017 and 2018” with most of the speakers focussing on why we go to space. There were really interesting keynote presentations by Sandy Magnus (former NASA astronaut and current Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics – AIAA) and also Jan Woerner (Director General of ESA). The full symposium in all its glory is available to watch on YouTube.

“‘Why go to space?’ Maybe we should change the question to ‘Why not?!'” – Yu Qi (China National Space Administration – CNSA)

A Women’s Panel discussion was also organised in before the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The panel featured some distinguished guests including Sandy Magnus, Chiaki Mukai (former JAXA astronaut, first Japanese woman in space, and Chair of the current STSC), Laura Jamschon Mac Garry (Consul of Argentina in Vienna), Simonetta Di Pippo (Director of UNOOSA), and none other than Minoo Rathnasabapathy (Executive Director of SGAC). Again, the panel is available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube.

“It is so important to have a role model that looks like you.” – Sandy Magnus

The European Space Agency (ESA) along with UNOOSA also held a panel discussion on the beauty and fragility of our planet and the challenges we face from climate change. This was as part of the launch of their book entitled “My planet from space: Fragility and Beauty” and ongoing collaboration including the exhibition at the UN building in New York.

“The view of earth from space still haunts me with its beauty.” – Luca Parmitano (ESA astronaut)

I had the opportunity to speak with Luca after the panel about what it takes to become and astronaut and what people striving to become one should know. What he said was deeply insightful and fascinating.

“Don’t make being an astronaut your goal. Your goal should be to be the best and happiest in whatever field you’re in. Even after being selected as an astronaut candidate, you may never get to go to space. You must still be able to go back to what you do and love it.”

I feel so privileged and honoured to have been given this opportunity to attend the STSC in Vienna, and I certainly hope to attend again in the future!

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