If we can build the International Space Station, ‘we can do anything’ – UN Champion for Space

UNIS Vienna
UN Champion for Space Scott Kelly delivers the keynote address at UNISPACE+50.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

“Through that single visor, you see how fragile the Earth’s atmosphere is … it’s almost like someone put this thin film over the surface of our planet and the first time you see it, you realize that is everything that protects us from space,” said Mr. Kelly, delivering a keynote address at the UNISPACE+50 gathering in Vienna; a United Nations forum on the peaceful uses of outer space.

However, in spite of this breathtakingly beautiful sight, there are parts of the globe when viewed from space, that are almost always shrouded in pollution, he continued.

Humankind may get to Mars someday or elsewhere in the Solar System, but if it is to survive, it “needs to survive on earth” added the former NASA astronaut who spent over a year orbiting the planet.

In his address, Mr. Kelly described his life onboard the International Space Station, a structure measuring about 300 feet long and 200 feet wide and orbiting between 280-460 kilometers in space.

Particularly poignant was his description of the time he left the station for his last time, onboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft:

“We built this space station … while flying around the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour, in a vacuum, in temperatures ranges of plus or minus 270 degrees”, he said, adding that they had connecting modules, “some of which had never touched each other before on Earth” which “put together astronauts and cosmonauts working in these very, very difficult conditions.”

“This space station is the hardest thing we have ever done … if we can do this we can do anything,” underscored Mr. Kelly.

He linked this incredible feat of human ingenuity and perseverance with addressing the challenges confronting the vert survival of planet Earth.

If we want to fix the problems with the environment we can do that, expressed Mr. Kelly.

“After spending a year in space, I was absolutely inspired that if we can dream it we can do it … and most importantly, if we work as a team because teamwork makes the dream work. The sky is not the limit.”

UN office and Chinese space agencies to strengthen international cooperation in outer space

Also on Tuesday, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) signed agreements with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) on strengthening cooperation on the use of space for sustainable development.

UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo and CNSA Secretary General Tian Yulong, signed a declaration of intent to work together to support countries along the “Belt and Road” network, as well as other developing countries, using applied space technology in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Specific areas of cooperation include accessing ground and in-orbit space facilities and “hands-on” training relating to satellite technology development.

The two agencies also agreed to work on plans which will allow UN Member States to conduct scientific research on board the China Space Station, which is expected to be operational from 2022.

Space, youth and the civil society

Also on Tuesday, two dedicated panel discussions were held, focusing on how young people and civil society can make use of space technology for sustainable development.

The lively panel on “Space and Youth” included young people describing the kind of role that the UN could play to connect them with space experts and the growing international space exploration industry.

“Space and Civil Society” saw civil society representatives and non-governmental organizations sharing the stage with space agencies to discuss how they can support each other in utilizing space applications and technology to strengthen the implementation of the SDGs.

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