Holy See Questions Plans to Extract Resources from Moon, Asteroids
Delegates from the Global South underscored the many ways in which space technology can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and called for greater efforts to that end, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued today its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
Iraq’s representative described how his country is using high-resolution satellite imagery to evaluate the consequences of war in affected areas and neighbourhoods. Highlighting the use of space data in monitoring land and water, as well as for housing and infrastructure planning, he hoped that soon an Iraqi communications satellite can be placed in the geostationary orbit above Earth.
India’s delegate highlighted the 260 space cooperation documents his Government has signed, covering technology protection, ground station support and space situational awareness, among other things. The private Indian space industry will be a “co-traveller” in India’s space journey, he said, adding that the country plans to expand its international cooperation to the space industry and academia.
Bangladesh’s representative, noting his country’s shift from a least-developed country to developing country status, said it is using its space activities to create momentum in its development work. The communications satellite it launched in 2018 is being used to generate revenue through service rental, he said, adding that the Government is also focusing on space research and monitoring to deal with climate change.
Cuba’s delegate also highlighted the importance of space science for weather forecasting and climate change mitigation efforts. Using outer space for peaceful ends is a right that every State should have, but unfortunately, it is a faraway dream for many developing countries, she said.
Cameroon’s representative, pointing to satellite disaster management and weather forecasting, said that new advancements in space exploration have created a better world. While highlighting the potential of space science to find viable solutions to achieve sustainable development, he warned that the militarization of space and the creation of space debris are creating challenges.
The Permanent Observer of the Holy See warned that space in the vicinity of Earth is getting increasingly crowded with satellites and debris. He also questioned proposals to extract rare elements from asteroids and the Moon. An international system of regulation should be set up to prevent a rush on such resources, he said.
Also speaking today were representatives of Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Ethiopia, United States, China, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Malaysia, India and Israel.
The representative of the Russian Federation spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 31 October, to take action on draft resolutions and conclude its consideration of the peaceful uses of outer space.
KHALID MOHAMMED H. H. FELEMBAN (Saudi Arabia), noting that the world is showing greater interest in space in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, said that his country’s space policy seeks to strengthen human capital, national sovereignty and international cooperation. The aim is to strengthen its capabilities in satellites, communication services and the ability to launch spacecraft into orbit. Noting his country’s Artemis agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States, he said that it looks forward to the first Saudi astronaut going into space in 2023. He emphasized the need to preserve space for peaceful purposes and to avoid its militarization, and encouraged the adoption of responsible behaviour and best practices.
YUMIRKA FERNÁNDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), stressing that the existing spy satellite network is incompatible with peaceful development, emphasized the role of space technology in the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Using outer space for peaceful ends is a right that every State should have, but unfortunately, it is a faraway dream for many developing countries. All States must be able to access space without discrimination, she said, calling on the United Nations to promote that goal. The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States impacts its ability to develop scientific applications, she noted, highlighting also the importance of space science for weather forecasting and climate change mitigation efforts.
JOHN YING (Singapore), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said small States have a role to play and can make meaningful contributions to promote the peaceful uses of outer space. As a member of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and a participant at the Open-ended Working Group on reducing space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviours, Singapore strongly supports discussions on best practices, norms, rules and standards that apply to space activities. He recognized the importance of keeping the global space community connected to enable the exchange of ideas and perspectives as well as collaboration for the collective benefit of mankind. To this end, Singapore hosts the annual Global Space and Technology Convention, he said, adding that his country, an emerging spacefaring nation, will also host the Committee on Space Research’s fifth symposium in April 2023.
GULED ABDO MOHAMMED (Ethiopia) called for capacity-building and technical assistance to help developing countries which are only just starting their space programmes. He also stressed the need to uphold an international order in outer space based on international law, with the United Nations at the core of that effort. In that regard, the work of the Outer Space Committee should be strengthened. Acknowledging the General Assembly’s adoption of the “Space2030” Agenda in 2021, he said that Ethiopia is committed to the peaceful use of outer space and that it is working tirelessly to strengthen and expand international cooperation with the public, private and non-governmental sectors. He went on to urge all States, particularly those with major space capabilities, to actively contribute to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space.
Ms. KELLER (United States), stressing that the Outer Space Committee is the only standing body mandated to consider the peaceful uses of outer space, thanked it for working tirelessly to foster international cooperation. Noting efforts to implement guidelines concerning long-term sustainability of outer space activities and the recently established Open-ended Working Group on legal aspects of space resources activities, she said the Working Groups on long-term sustainability and space resources are examples of the extensive efforts within the Committee to provide opportunities for Member States to discuss how best to implement the principles established by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The principles contained in that treaty must guide governmental and private sector space activities, from space debris mitigation to space resource utilization, she said.
ZHAO YANRUI (China) said the rapid advancement of technologies and new activities has created new challenges as the rules on outer space are developed. These technologies warrant greater attention and international cooperation needs to be more effective. It is imperative to maintain the international order based on international law when addressing these challenges, she said, adding that exploration of outer space must go hand-in-hand with the development of new rules. Working groups must abide by the outer space treaties and the development and economic needs of all countries must be considered. The international community must ensure the benefits of outer space are provided for all members of society and contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. All stakeholders must work together and the “Space2030” Agenda can be used to guide international cooperation. There should be equal participation of all countries in the global governance of outer space, she continued, adding that space technology can be used to provide climate change solutions.
FUTOON ABDULRAHMAN HUSAIN AHMED ALAMMADI (Bahrain) underscored the great role of the United Nations and its tireless efforts to preserve the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. Bahrain attaches great importance to harnessing space technology for various ends, including responding to the impacts of climate change, and has taken its first steps in this regard with the development of its National Space Science Agency. In cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, the country is also building its first satellite to monitor gamma rays, to be launched by the end of 2023. International and regional partnerships in the field of space should be promoted in a manner that benefits all humankind, in compliance with international treaties that govern the peaceful use of outer space, she added.
YAARB AHMED NASER AL-TEMEMY (Iraq) noting the expanding role of peaceful applications of space, said his country is disseminating space science in its research centres and universities. He called on developed countries to provide technical assistance and capacity-building through study fellowships and workshops, emphasizing that developing countries need assistance in the development of space science technology. Iraq is using space data to plan housing and infrastructure, including high-resolution satellite pictures to evaluate the consequences of war in affected areas and neighbourhoods, he added. Also highlighting the use of space tools in monitoring land and water, particularly marshlands, he said that hopefully an Iraqi communication satellite can soon be placed in geostationary orbit.
Mr. AHIDJO (Cameroon) said the development of outer space has the potential to benefit all countries, especially developing countries. New advancements in space exploration have created a better world through the development of new technologies, such as satellite disaster management and weather forecasting. These technologies will become more important as space science finds viable solutions to achieve sustainable development. It can be used to promote the development of all countries, he said, underscoring the need for relevant and comprehensive information to meet the challenges of climate change and natural disasters. However, the militarization of space and the creation of space debris is creating challenges, he added. The international community must work together and strengthen international and regional cooperation to deal with these challenges. Norms surrounding the use of outer space must be developed, he said, emphasizing that all countries have the same rights and should be able to benefit from development of outer space.
Mr. AL QASIM (United Arab Emirates), expressing full support for the Outer Space Committee and its subcommittees, reviewed the latest developments in his country’s space programme, including the imminent return of an Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station and the launch of its first mission to the Moon. International cooperation is vital, he said, emphasizing the United Arab Emirates’ firm belief in the peaceful and sustainable use of space. He went on to affirm his country’s commitment to international disarmament and non-proliferation efforts, adding that ensuring the cooperative use of space, including sustainability and public and private space efforts, must be a vital part of the international community’s work.
Ms. AQNEW (Canada), stressing the role of international cooperation in outer space, noted that her country is sharing best practices with Ukraine’s national space agency. Noting that Canada is a founding member of the Outer Space Committee, she said that space has changed since that body was established in 1959. With rapid advances in space technology, the space environment has become more complex. The Outer Space Committee has adapted its agenda accordingly, with its guidelines on long-term sustainability contributing to the peaceful exploration of outer space for the benefit of all peoples, regardless of their socioeconomic status. She added that implementing the recommendations of the Expert Group on Space Weather will advance the goal of increased global resilience against that phenomenon. Like other countries, Canada has ambitions beyond low Earth orbit to the Moon and, eventually, Mars, she said, adding that it is essential to consider how to work sustainably and safely in deep space. In that regard, Canada was among the first signatories to the Artemis Accords, a practical implementation of the principles of the Outer Space Treaty, she said.
MD SHOWEB ABDULLAH (Bangladesh) said his delegation has always advocated for a robust legal regime to govern the development of outer space in a way which can provide equal benefits for all humankind. The safe and secure development of space technology is crucial. As Bangladesh shifts from least-developed-country status to becoming a developing country, its Government is increasing its development of space activities. He noted the 2018 launch of a communications satellite which is producing revenue through service rentals, as well as efforts to generate development momentum towards fulfilling the 2030 Agenda. Greater access to space-based data is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, adding that as a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, Bangladesh places great importance on using space research and monitoring to deal with its effects. Equal and rational use of outer space by all countries must be ensured, he added.
HANA BINTI NORDIN (Malaysia) said that against the backdrop of a shifting geopolitical and socioeconomic landscape, it is more critical than ever for the global community to prevent the militarization of outer space and to ensure that it is free of all types of weapons. Malaysia believes in the need for greater transparency and exchange of information among all actors in the outer space context, with due regard to the legitimate safety and security interests of all States. In this regard, it welcomes the establishment of the Open-ended Working Group on reducing space threats and looks forward to its continued deliberations. Sustainability of space activities can only be achieved through the development of space technology and applications that are based on the principle of fair and mutual benefit, as well as full respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of States, she added.
NITISH BIRDI (India), reaffirming the important role of the Outer Space Committee and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, said that as a major spacefaring nation, India has a vital development interest in space. Underscoring the need to preserve outer space as a common heritage of humankind, he said: “We are, we were and we will remain cooperative in all space activities favouring all spacefaring and space-aspiring nations.” Over the years, India has signed more than 260 space cooperation documents covering aspects such as technology protection, ground station support, cooperation in aerosol monitoring, space situational awareness and peaceful uses of outer space. Further, the Government envisages the private Indian space industry to be a co-traveller on India’s space journey. In addition to agency-to-agency level cooperation, India’s international cooperation in the field of space will, in the future, include industry and academia.
Ms. SHIRAZI (Israel), emphasizing that space is not only an enabler of technologies, but also a key arena of the cooperation between States, noted that her country is among the few States able to operate, launch and maintain satellites. In January 2022, it signed the Artemis Accords, reaffirming its obligations under United Nations treaties on the peaceful use of the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies. It has already contributed to the upcoming Artemis-1 mission to the Moon, thus becoming one of the very few States that has managed to introduce original technology to that effort. Israel wishes to explore new partnerships within the Middle East, she added, explaining that opportunities for regional space cooperation bring unique solutions to challenges such as climate change and food security. She went on to say that Israel will remain actively engaged with the Office for Outer Space Affairs and the Outer Space Committee, in addition to supporting the “Space2030” Agenda.
GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, expressed concern that the region of outer space closest to Earth is becoming increasingly crowded with satellites and debris. This causes competition to secure a limited number of preferential orbits, he said, calling on States to cooperate on minimizing space debris. Welcoming the trend of reusable space launch systems, he said that future use of spacecraft and satellites should include a circular model of production, so that at the end of its life cycle, a spacecraft would fall out of orbit, thus limiting the risk of collision while also freeing up orbital spots. He stressed the need to balance commercial interests with those of scientific inquiry, and expressed concern about proposals to extract rare elements from asteroids and the Moon to extract rare elements. An international system of regulation should be set up to prevent a rush on these resources, he said, adding that the international community must not approach celestial bodies from the point of view of ruthless exploitation.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right to reply, said that it was unfortunate that during the discussion, a point was raised which brought politicization into the dialogue. This was when the representative of the European Union made remarks about events in Ukraine, he said, adding that his delegation has set out its position on that matter in other platforms meant for that purpose.
Source: United Nations