Every year in early October, the world celebrates World Space Week. This article by Universe Space Tech discusses the story behind World Space Week’s founding, including the who and why of this commemorative occasion.
The idea of an annual celebration about space was first voiced at the United Nations International Conference on Outer Space in 1999. The delegation from Morocco made a proposal to declare July 20 a day of space in honor of the first landing of the Apollo crew on the moon, though the proposal wasn’t exactly met with open arms. While most delegations supported the idea of having a commemorative day about space, the date itself provoked lively discussions.
Specifically, representatives from the Russian Federation alleged that July 20 would be an unfair and ahistorical date, arguing instead that the space age began in 1957 with the launch of a Soviet satellite. In their eyes, they believed it would be more logical to celebrate space on October 4, the day when the first artificial device “Sputnik-1” reached orbit. This initiative was supported by Belarus, Kazakhstan, China, Uzbekistan, India, Cuba, South Africa, and a few other countries.
U.S. representatives disagreed, choosing October 10 instead – the day the Outer Space Treaty came into force. The German delegation then proposed submitting this issue to the UN Committee on Space Activities for consideration. But suddenly, in the midst of controversy, heated speeches, and discussions, Iran offered to celebrate not just a day, but an entire week of space – from October 4 to 10. Most countries supported this initiative. Thus, on December 6, 1999, the decision was taken to celebrate World Space Week.
The event is coordinated by the United Nations with the support of the World Space Week Association. Together, they choose the theme of every event. The first theme, in 2000, was the “Launch of the Space Millennium.” It consisted of educational and informational events conducted by space agencies, aerospace companies, schools, planetariums, museums, and astronomical societies around the world. Everyone is invited to participate; organizers are especially happy to see students, schoolchildren, and their teachers.
Over the course of its existence, World Space Week has gained worldwide significance. Last year, even with pandemics and quarantine restrictions, more than 6,500 events were organized in more than 60 countries. This year, applicants from more than 90 countries have applied to join in the commemorations. The theme of World Space Week 2021 is “Women in Space”.
These international days are a powerful tool for raising people’s awareness about less-visible issues and topics. During World Space Week, the UN and space agencies from different countries often discuss the benefits of space exploration, motivating young people to engage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In addition, they encourage the use of technological innovation for space and the sustainable economic development of countries, as well as promote close international cooperation in space activities and education.