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Dr. Marius-Ioan Piso chairs the 64th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, 25 August - 3 September 2021, Vienna

on 26 August 2021

The President of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA), Dr. Phys. Marius-Ioan Piso, is chairing the 64th session of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), which is taking place in Vienna, Austria, between 25 August – 3 September 2021. Mr. Piso's mandate as President of UN COPUOS ends at the next session of the Committee in July 2022.

Dr. Piso extended a warm welcome to everyone at the sixty-fourth session of the Committee and thanked the 95 member states for their confidence in electing him chair of the UN-COPUOS for the 2020-2021 period, on 12 October 2020.

The President of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) addressed a special welcome to the Dominican Republic, Rwanda and Singapore as the newest members of the Committee, bringing the total number of members to 95 states, and also to the Moon Village Association as the newest international non-governmental organisation with observer status with the Committee.

In his opening speech, Dr. Piso highlighted the 60th anniversary of the first human space flight carried out by Yuri Gagarin, which marked the beginning of a new era for humanity, an anniversary that was celebrated this year.

“Ever since those remarkable early days of the space era, space activities have been increasingly thriving, with the emergence of new technologies and new actors at an unprecedented rate. Space actors have become more diverse and plural than ever before. This should be taken as an encouraging sign that space applications are benefiting people around the globe more and more. It should also encourage us in our efforts to promote international cooperation and enhanced use of space technologies for socioeconomic development and for addressing global challenges. At the same time, the increase in space activities demonstrates the need for the governance of outer space activities”, declared Dr. Piso.

In the context of the pandemic situation continuing to be a threat to human health, safety and well-being, the ROSA President underlined that ”space actors and industrial players are contributing to the COVID crisis management and relief. Space technology saved lives during this troubled period, through services such as satellite tracking and specific devices adapted for needs such as decontamination and ventilation. Space applications such as telecommunications, Earth observation, positioning and navigation, tele-transmission and remote control are substantially addressing the present economic and societal challenges given by the pandemic”.

Dr. Piso also stated the importance of the Office for Outer Space Affairs, which, despite the pandemic, organised a range of webinars, virtual conferences and activities, including on space economy and the fostering of the use of space science and technology for global health.

The pandemic affected the activity of the Committee, with the sessions of The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) and the Legal Subcommittee (LSC) being held earlier this year. Even under severe logistical constraints, member states managed to take successful decisions and to produce substantive reports. ”This in itself demonstrates a remarkable commitment by States members of the Committee to take the means available and make progress,” said Dr Piso.

The ROSA President summarised the activity of the Committee in 2019, which adopted the preamble and 21 guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities — an important instrument for fostering the safety of space operations, and established a new working group under the long-term sustainability of outer space activities agenda item of the STSC. Another important aspect brought in discussion was the new Working Group established by the LSC this year, under the agenda item on the exploration, exploitation and utilisation of space resources.

Dr. Piso stressed the importance of the STSC Working Group of the Whole, the STSC Working Group on Space and Global Health, the STSC Working Group on the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, the LSC Working Group on the Status and Application of the Five United Nations Treaties on Outer Space and the LSC Working Group on the Definition and Delimitation of Outer Space and commended their leadership which enabled ”considerable decisions and overall advancement under their respective mandates at the two Subcommittee sessions this year, despite the constraints and complexity of conducting diplomacy under those extraordinary circumstances.”

Regarding future projects, Dr. Piso pointed out that The Committee, through its dedicated Working Group on the “Space2030” Agenda, under the leadership of its Bureau is advancing its work towards finalisation of this important agenda and implementation plan, thus paving the way for constructive deliberations at the present session and submission of the “Space2030” agenda to the General Assembly this autumn.

Dr. Piso extended his gratitude to the elected officials ”for the remarkable progress made during a period of disruption and constraints to our governance efforts”, calling attention to the fact that ”it is important now to continue our efforts to enhance the role of the Committee and its Subcommittees, supported by the Office for Outer Space Affairs, as a unique multilateral forum for fostering dialogue and cooperation. COPUOS as a whole has clearly demonstrated its ability to function even under sever conditions.”

As Dr. Piso declared: “Space is becoming a permanent presence in common life and on the political agenda of governments and international organisations. The dependency of our civilisation on space systems is proven and is becoming critical. From science to direct applications in common life, space became a rapidly developing area of activity. Each Planet Earth citizen is spending an average of 55 USD yearly for space and space related activities.

The unique times of the pandemic influenced all major human activities with effects on space-related local and global matters. However, the development of activities continued, and space offered effective tools for relief and management. Moreover, the restrictions that the pandemic induced on human activities promoted the evolution of new tools such as for telecommunications, virtual reality and modelling and artificial intelligence with support from space and effects for space.

Those unique special conditions were reflected also in the evolution and work of the Committee and its Subcommittees, in organisation, management and substance. Despite the successful stability and effects induced globally during the last two decades, it might probably be necessary to perform some adjustments in order to continue to maintain COPUOS as the global body covering the actual increasing societal, economic and political diversity of space activities.”

He concluded that there will be eight busy days with important items to be considered from the agenda and with major initiatives to be advanced. “With your cooperation and valuable contribution, I am confident that this session will be a success despite the logistic constraints we still face,” concluded Dr. Piso.

Details about the 64th session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space can be found here.

Image credit: ROSA