"Our civilization is no more than the sum of all the dreams that earlier ages have brought to fulfillment. And so it must always be, for if men cease to dream, if they turn their backs upon the universe, the story of our race will end."
Arthur C. Clarke
United Nations Basic Space Science Initiative (UNBSSI)
The United Nations Basic Space Science Initiative (UNBSSI) is a global initiative to involve developing countries in the planning and celebration of the International Heliophysical Year in 2007 (IHY 2007).
For more information, please visit:
Astronomy and basic space science have advanced rapidly in recent years. This has mainly been driven by the advent of the Space Age over the past five decades. At the same time the needs for a new development process became obvious as countries made efforts to benefit from rapid progress in space science and technology. This process required a complete innovation of the driving forces for development where no previous examples were available. Although new development models have been applied with different levels of success, a large number of countries around the world continue to lack the human, technical, and financial resources to conduct even the most basic activities in this field, such as operating a small astronomical telescope facility in an university environment and making use of such facilities in research and education. The need to make the benefits of basic space science available to all countries is growing more urgent with each passing year.
The United Nations Programme on Space Applications, since its inauguration in 1971, has made an effort in furthering knowledge and experience of space applications around the world. Provision of in-country capacity-building, education, research and development support and technical advisory services by the Programme have all helped to create conditions under which the developing countries have started to benefit also from some of the progress made in the basic space science by the �at that time- still very small number of developed countries actively involved in space. However, until 1990, this provision focused mainly on applications oriented activities in remote sensing of the Earth, meteorological satellite applications, and satellite communications. Only in the late 1980�s, discussions among developing countries, the United Nations and the European Space Agency (ESA) identified the possible need and importance to support the growth of small research groups in universities and research establishments in the developing countries in the field of astronomy and space science. This lead to the holding of the UN/ESA workshops on basic space science on an annual basis in the different regions: Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Western Asia, and Europe.
|First Workshop on Basic Space Science, India, 1991||Eighth Workshop on Basic Space Science, Jordan, 1998|
The first UN/ESA Workshop on Basic Space Science was held in Bagalore, India in 1991. Between 1991 and the eighth Workshop, held in 1998 in Jordan, the workshops travelled around the world twice. The support of Member States (Governments) and their participation in these workshops, under the auspices of the UN Programme for Space Applications, was and is crucial for the success of the workshops. The most recent workshop was held in 2002 in Argentina.
|Figure 3: Map of UN/ESA Workshops on Basic Space Science|
Because the workshops are held in the different regions this allows a factual focus to be developed, addressing the fundamental questions and their relevance in a regional context. Associated with each workshop are very dynamic working group sessions in which the participating scientists are able to raise the issues perceived to be of relevance and interest in their own environment. Each of the UN/ESA workshops has resulted in a set of unique observations and recommendations identifying the regional needs, strengths and possible outlook for future progress. These observations and recommendations are contained in the UN General Assembly documents for wider distribution among Member States as shown in Table 1.
and observations document
|1991 Bangalore, India||A/AC.105/489||Khanna,AIP, 1992, Conf. Proc. Vol. 245|
|1992 San Juan, Costa Rica & Bogota, Columbia||A/AC.105/530||Torres, 1994, APSS, Vol. 214, No.1-2|
|1993 Ile-Ife, Nigeria||A/AC.105/560/Add.1||Onuora, 1994, AIP, Conf.Proc. Vol. 320|
|1994, Cairo, Egypt||A/AC.105/580||Mikhail, 1995, APSS, Vol. 228, No.1-2|
|1995, Colombia, Sri Lanka||A/AC.105/640||---|
|1996, Bonn, Germany||A/AC.105/657||Mezger, 1998,APSS, Vol. 258, No.1-2|
|1997, Tegucigalpa, Honduras||A/AC.105/682||---|
|1999, Mafraq, Jordan||A/AC.105/723||Al-Naimiy, 2000, APSS, Vol.273, No.1-2|
|2000, Toulouse, France||A/AC.105/742||---|
|2001, Reduit, Mauritius||A/AC.105/766||Rughooputh, 2002, APSS,282, Vol.1|
|2002, Cordoba, Argentina||A/AC.105/784||Rabolli, 2003|
|2004, Beijing, China||A/AC.105/829||------|
To assure that the UN/ESA workshops do not create a duplication of efforts with other activities in the UN framework, an important issue was the definition of the nature of basic space science and its involved technologies. These were defined in the first workshop and have been maintained throughout the series (A/AC.105/489). In the context of the needs for the developing countries, basic space science was defined to cover:
With the applicable techniques as tools for the pursuance of basic space science research:
From the results of the deliberations, an implementation model for the accelerated implementation of basic space science associated activities in developing countries has been developed and is referred to in general as " Tripod". The Tripod concept, identified in the very first workshop in India, is to assure in the developing countries:
Using this approach, small astronomical telescope facilities in Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Jordan, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay have been established and continue to be in operation. The introduction of astronomy in the context of basic space science in university curricula in countries such as Honduras as a regional activity is a result of the Tripodial approach. Archives of data from basic space science space missions is another result and has already introduced a new parameter in the Tripod and will, in the future, contribute a fourth leg to the implementation process.
Planetarium: A Challenge for Educators
Astrophysics for University Physics Courses
|Telescope facility in Paraguay|
|Yangon Planetarium in Myanmar||Telescope facility at the University of Chile|
|Planetarium Dome at Ho Chi Minh Memorial Culture Hall, Vinh City, Viet Nam.||Telescope facility at the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration|
|Planetarium Building at Geophysical Institute, Lima, Peru||Telescope facility in Sri Lanka|
|Figure 4: Telescope and Planetarium facilities established through the Workshops|
If the communications environment in developing countries can be advanced, as has been recommended in all workshops, the availability of the Virtual Observatory concept will be another important contribution to the process.
And, if agreement on the implementation of the next phase of active observational capabilities can be reached, as proposed in the World Space Observatory concept, the basic space science environment in the developing countries will have made the necessary quantum jump needed for accelerated development.
Artist's impression of the World Space Observatory in space