Sunday, September 30, 2007

50th Anniversary of the Space Age

Sputnik 1, the first man made object to be placed in orbit around the earth, was launched on October 4th, 1957. Thus, this week marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the space age.

The launch of Sputnik 1, coupled with the failure of the United States' first two satellite launch attempts, shocked the United States, which responded with a number of early satellite launches. The so called "Sputnik crisis" also led to the creation of NASA and of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as to major increases in U.S. government spending on scientific research and education. Sputnik shocked the leaders of the U.S. government out of their complacency, and jump started our all but stalled scientific, technological and educational programs.

On the evening of 21 March 2007, UNESCO and the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) held a celebration of 50 Years of the Space Age at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris. The celebration featured four distinguished speakers who reflected on what has been achieved in space during the past fifty years and looked ahead to what could be anticipated in the coming half century. The ceremony brought together more than 400 space specialists and high-level managers of national and international space agencies.

Message from the International Space Station.
Delivered at the Paris celebration.

On that date, UNESCO and the IAF also signed a partnership agreement, pledging support for the UNESCO and European Space Agency (ESA) Open Initiative on the use of space technologies to monitor natural and cultural heritage of UNESCO sites.

UNESCO and the International Astronautical Federation had previously initiated activities together, notably a special session at the IAF 2005 Congress (Fukukoa, Japan) and an event during the following Congress in Valencia (Spain).

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