Space to be preserved as the common heritage of mankind
On 1 June  the Holy See delivered the following intervention at the 54th Session of the committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Spaces, which was held in Vienna, Austria from 1-10 June.
Mr Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,
Allow me cordially to congratulate the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on the occasion of its 500th Anniversary celebrations. Over these years, the gaze of this Committee has been directed at the heavens not only in order to study and contemplate the stars created by God, but also in order to speak of the space probes, space stations and satellites made by man. The Holy See sincerely appreciates all the achievements of this Committee in securing the peaceful use of outer space.
Might this be what Pope Benedict had in mind during his recent conversation with the Space Station crew (Saturday, 21 May 2011)? His Holiness observed: "From the Space Station you have a very different view of the Earth. You fly over different continents and nations several times a day. I think it must be obvious to you how we all live together on one Earth and how absurd it is that we fight and kill each other". He then asked: "When you are contemplating the Earth from up there, do you ever wonder about the way nations and people live together down here. or about how science can contribute to the cause of peace?". The response of Astronaut Mark Kelly is remarkable: "... [W]e fly over most of the world and you don't see borders, but at the same time we realize that people fight with each other and there is a lot of violence in this world... And it's interesting in space... on Earth, people often fight for energy; in space we use solar power and we have fuel cells on the Space Station. You know, the science and the technology that we put into the Space Station to develop a solar power capability, gives us pretty much an unlimited amount of energy. And if those technologies could be adapted more on Earth, we could possibly reduce some of that violence".
Mr Chairman, precisely with the intention of contributing to reducing violence and to promoting the shared responsibility we all have not only towards our planet but also for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations, Pope Benedict XVI chose for his Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace in 2010 the theme: "If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation". He stated that creation should be protected through a better internationally coordinated management of the Earth's resources. This reflection also extends to space. The various modes of man's presence in space lead us to ask a question: to whom does space belong? The Holy See maintains that space belongs to the whole of humanity, that it is something for the benefit of all. Just as the earth is for the benefit of all, and private property must be distributed in such a way that every human being is given a proper share in the goods of the earth, in the same way the occupation of space by satellites and other instruments must be regulated by just agreements and international pacts that will enable the whole human family to enjoy and use it.
Properly understood, modern space technology also provides observations useful for the cultivation of the earth, far beyond anything that can be done by any system working on the earth's surface. Through the use of satellites it is possible, inter alia, to obtain exact data regarding the condition of tracts of land, the flow of water and weather conditions. These data can be used for the purpose of improving agriculture, checking the state of woodlands and forests, evaluating the condition of individual zones or of the whole earth, thus making it possible to draw up particular or global programmes in order to meet concrete situations. In fact, in his Message for the World Day of Peace 2010, the Pope pointed out that greater attention should be paid to the worldwide problem of water and the global water cycle system which is of prime importance for life on Earth and whose stability could be seriously jeopardized by climate change. The Holy See is pleased to see that these issues will also be dealt with at this Session of the Committee.
One of the biggest tasks that can be carried out by the use of satellites is the elimination of illiteracy. In fact, satellites car also be used for a wider spreading of culture in all the countries of the world, not only in those where illiteracy has already
been eliminated but also in those where many can still not yet read or write, for culture can be spread with the use of pictures alone. But the transmission of culture must not be identified with the imposition of the cultures of the technologically advanced countries on those still developing.
In this context, the activities of COPUOS aimed towards the longterm sustainabitity of outer space acquire an ever greater importance. There are very powerful economic, commercial, industrial and security interests at play. Emerging space nations are concerned that such efforts should not be used to erect barriers to their ability to access space benefits. Advanced space nations are concerned that such measures should not limit their freedom of action in space, nor impose unacceptable burdens on their economic or industrial competitiveness. The Holy See is confident that COPUOS will be able to elaborate guidelines and recommendations satisfactory for both the developing and industrialized countries, with a view to promoting a real and effective international cooperation aimed at achieving authentic progress and peace in the world and at placing the results of space research and endeavours at the disposal of all humanity and for the common good.
The space environment should be preserved as the common heritage of mankind. We always have to keep in mind our human stewardship of God's creation and the responsibility to preserve it for future generations.
Allow me to conclude by stating that for the above-mentioned reasons, in the future the Delegation of the Holy See will also continue to observe the deliberations of this important Committee with great interest.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.