Happy World Space Week! How did we get to have one?
In 1999, United Nations General Assembly declared 4 to 10 of October World Space Week, to celebrate each year at the international level the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition”
UN General Assembly resolution, 6 December 1999
Fast forward 20 years, at the United Nations, everyone was buzzing about the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon landing. And the theme for the celebration this year (as it gets a separate theme every year) is “The Moon, Gateway to Stars”.
@worldspaceweek Executive Director Maruška Strah giving a statement for COPUOS at United Nations Office in Vienna, June 2019. Photo: Milky-Way.Kiwi
But maybe what fewer people know, is that the first Moon landing, along with all the progress and inspiration it brought to humankind, is also responsible for World Space Week, which now is a global movement.
World Space Week started small, in 1978, when the Office of the Governor and the Mayor’s Office in Huston announced that the week of July 17 would be known as the Space Week and celebrated with due diligence. In 1969, the astronauts took off Earth on the 16th of July but the 17th was probably convenient in 1978 as it fell on a Monday.
The event must have been successful, as two years later, in 1980, Governor W.P. Clements signed an official Memorandum designating 16–24 of July as Space Week in Texas (NASA Roundup, 11 July 1980). Space Week was aimed to reinforce in the hearts and minds of people that the purpose of the U.S. Space Program is the peaceful exploration of space for the benefit of all mankind.
The celebration in Huston was also meant to recognise the benefits that the space programme was bringing to the nation “through its activities applicable in medicine, agriculture, aeronautics, astronautics, construction, public safety, consumer products, transportation, computers, communications, urban planning, and solar energy” (Idem).
Today, we call these space spin-offs and they are one of the reasons why peaceful space exploration continued to develop outside of outside events such as the cold war. It turned out that these space spinoffs are very useful inventions, being things like blood pumps, air purifiers, cochlear implants, osteoporosis medicines, wireless headsets, invisible braces, memory foam, baby formula, special skin creams that keep you looking younger for longer, food safety. The last one is very interesting as NASA was trying to find a way of ensuring any food sent into space was completely pathogen free. This led to the developed of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety testing that is an integral part of Food Safety Guidelines around the world today. The list is long. For the people who wonder why we should go to space when there are other more stringent issues here on Earth, if only for these reasons above, and it is still worth it. The Space Week was a strategic move, a great campaign to bring these to the attention of the public.
Ernie Hillje, Troy Welch, David Koch, and Dennis Stone coordinated the celebrations and a year later formed the “Spaceweek National Headquarters” for a nationwide reach in the United States. By 1999 Space Week had spread to more than 15 nations. It was in that year that the UN General Assembly declared “World Space Week” was to be held every year from 4 to 10 October. The organisation offered to the UN to serve as global coordinator of World Space Week, and helped organise the first such celebration in 2000. Dennis Stone remained the WSWA President since its inception and he still is today.
What started at the Johnson Space Center as the 11th anniversary of the first Moon landing today is an international observance of science and technology and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition — the largest celebration in the world.
Michael Collins, who narrated the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing in the Google Doodle noted at the end: “We were invited to take a tour around the world and I was amazed that everywhere we went people would say: ‘We. We did it.’ We, you and me, the inhabitants of this wonderful Earth.”
It was probably for the same reason that the United Nations suggested in 1999 that the dates of 4 and 10 of October should be the new dates of the Space Week: on October 4, 1957 we launched the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, thus opening the way for space exploration; and on October 10, 1967 we signed the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. So World Space Week, too, has an anniversary. This year it is going to be 20 years old!
About World Space Week
The celebration of World Space Week is under the guidance of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) based in Vienna, Austria. For stats, in 2018 there have been more than 5,000 events in over 80 countries, celebrating with the theme “Space Unites the World.” To participate is simple: put on a space event during the world space week and then record it online at www.worldspaceweek.org. The theme for 2019 is “The Moon: Gateway to the Stars.”
Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development ,UNISPACE III meeting, 1999:
“Decide, in order to contribute to the achievement of the objectives of UNISPACE III, in particular that of increasing awareness among decision makers and civil society of the benefits of the peaceful uses of space science and technology for sustainable development, to invite the General Assembly to declare, according to its procedures, “World Space Week” between 4 and 10 October for the yearly celebration at the international level of the contribution that space science and technology can make to the betterment of the human condition.”
Here is the original document in which World Space Week was founded:
Happy World Space Week everyone!