I am sure more than enough blogs today will be denoted to the date 12-12-12, and the significance of this date in numerology, the Mayan calender and who knows what other esoteric contexts.

So, let me rather discuss another event celebrated today – on this day back in 1959, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs set up it’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, also known as COPUOS.

Space - a big topic for an UN subcommittee.(© All Rights Reserved)
Space – a big topic for an UN subcommittee.
(© All Rights Reserved)

The mandate of COPUOS is “to review the scope of international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters, and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.”

While this may seem a bit ‘out there’ to most of us earth-bound human beings, it is quite an interesting concept, and I guess in a way nice that there is at least some body responsible for keeping human extraterrestrial activities in check – we all know what silly things us humans can do with new things and domains that we don’t yet fully comprehend, and where we don’t quite understand the potential consequences of our actions.

The idea for the committee came up shortly after the launch of the first artificial satellite in 1958, right at the time when human interest (among both the scientific community and the general public) in outer space started seriously picking up, and about a decade before the first moon landing. Starting with 24 members, the committee has since grown to 71 members, making it one of the largest committees in the UN. Personally, the mind boggles when I look at the member list – you have to ask yourself what some of these countries could possibly contribute to the discussion on outer space. But then again, it is surprising what some countries spend their national budgets on…

Actually, thinking about it, perhaps it’s not strange that COPUOS is such a big committee. Space is, after all, a pretty big topic.  In the words of Douglas Adams: “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the drug store, but that’s just peanuts to space.”


  1. It is nice to know that there is someone in charge (or should that be ‘to blame’) when aliens arrive and it all goes wrong…. What was their number again?

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