Since the beginning of time, exploring the Universe has been a dream of humankind. Human curiosity has fuelled interest in exploring and discovering new worlds, pushing the boundaries of the known, and expanding scientific and technical knowledge.
States and space agencies have been engaging in space exploration since the first space launch. The first space launch led to the first human space flight, which led to the first moonwalk. Nowadays focus has shifted to joint human and robotic missions, near-Earth asteroids, Mars and destinations beyond our own solar system.
Space exploration and the innovation it entails are essential drivers for opening up new domains in space science and technology. They trigger new partnerships and develop capabilities that create new opportunities for addressing global challenges. Space exploration also motivates young people to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the STEM disciplines).
Though the precise nature of future benefits from space exploration is not easily predefined, current trends suggest that significant advantage may be found in areas such as new materials, health and medicine, transportation and computer technology. As the benefits of space exploration and innovation become better known, increasingly more countries and non-governmental entities are interested in engaging in exploration and innovation.
Space Exploration and Innovation Links to the Sustainable Development Goals
Technological spin-offs derived from space exploration are of vital importance to socioeconomic development, technological progress and the overall benefit of humankind. Innovation is not limited to technical fields. Also key are new business models and legal innovations. Investments in innovation, while central to Sustainable Development Goal 9, also link with such areas as education, health, agriculture and the environment, generating new opportunities for job creation and improving social welfare.
Common space exploration goals may bring together stakeholders and assist in the development of new technologies and new industries. Sustainable Development Goal 17 on Partnerships for the Goals promotes partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. Inclusive partnerships that build upon common principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals, and that place human beings and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local levels. By developing partnerships with common goals, entities with an interest in space exploration will be able to coordinate and work together in ways that maximize returns on investments and enable earlier realization of common goals and objectives.
Recent COPUOS and UNOOSA Efforts
In 2016, seven thematic priorities were endorsed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in the context of preparations for the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Use of Outer Space (UNISPACE+50). The first thematic priority was global partnership in space exploration and innovation, and the Committee established an action team as the mechanism to drive the topic. Twenty-two States and seven permanent observer organizations joined the Action Team on Exploration and Innovation, producing a report including a series of recommendations ( A/AC.105/1168).
In 2018, on the basis of the Action Team recommendation, the Committee agreed on the inclusion on its agenda of a regular item entitled "Space exploration and innovation" ( A/73/20, para. 364).
In 2019, building on the work of the Action Team, the United Nations/Jordan Workshop: Global Partnership in Space Exploration and Innovation was held in Amman. This was the first workshop of its kind, included both capacity- building and strategic components, and may lead to a workshop series on the topic.
Annual Reports on Space Activities
The following are recent reports by States on their space activities, submitted to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. Such reporting promotes transparency and builds confidence. The 2019 session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee saw a spike in the number of States reporting on their space activities- nearly double the number of the previous year.
For documents prior to the 52nd session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, search the larger Documents Database .