The Planetary Society will kick off the first World Space Week on October 4, 2000 with events at the United Nations and Hayden Planetarium in New York City, and at the Observatorio Nacional in Rio de Janeiro. Society participants will include Bill Nye the Science Guy, astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz and Neil de Grasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and experts on Mars exploration attending the International Astronautical Federation Congress in Rio de Janeiro.
In December,1999 the General Assembly of the United Nations declared October 4-10 World Space Week to celebrate internationally the contributions of space science and technology to humanity. The week is bracketed by two historic dates -- the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik ushering in the space age and the October 10, 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.
"In the coming years we'll learn more about our place in the cosmos," said Bill Nye, member of the Planetary Society's Board of Directors. "This conference will help space faring nations include all the people of Earth in the joy of discovery and the science of our planet. It's a big step for humankind."
The Planetary Society will host a Student Press Conference for young journalists at UN headquarters during an event to launch World Space Week, Wednesday morning, October 4. Middle schools and high schools throughout New York City will send student journalists to the session, where they will interview Nye and Franklin Chang-Diaz, a member of the Society's Advisory Council. Over 75 teachers and students will attend.
The Student Press Conference centers on one of the most intriguing questions of our era -- whether Earth's biosphere is unique or if life exists elsewhere in the universe. The participants, ages 12-17, will ask questions ranging from how can life flourish in extreme environments to how can human explorers advance the quest for life. In addition to their own questions, the young journalists will ask selected questions on behalf of students around the world who have submitted advance inquiries to the United Nations.
This major United Nations event will incorporate The Planetary Society's Student Press Conference in a program that includes a panel of space explorers from many nations, sessions on utilizing space for environmental protection in China and disaster management worldwide, and a video presentation by Planetary Society advisor Arthur C. Clarke.
"International cooperation is key to the future of space exploration," said Louis Friedman, Executive Director of The Planetary Society. "It is Earth that explores, not any one nation individually -- that is why we, as the largest space interest organization on Earth, wish to support the UN's World Space Week."
While various nations have celebrated a space week on different dates in the past, this will be the first official World Space Week decreed by the UN.
Also on October 4, the Planetary Society will co-sponsor with the Hayden Planetarium a public event at the American Museum of Natural History, "Should the Search for Life Be the Primary Goal of Space Exploration in the 21st Century?" The question will be debated by a lively panel hosted by Neil de Grasse Tyson. Panelists will include Nye; Chang-Diaz; William Burrows, Professor at New York University and author; and James Oberg, a commentator on the Russian and American space programs.
The event begins at 7:30 PM, October 4. Call (212)769-5200 for tickets: $10 for the general public, $8 for members of The Planetary Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and the National Space Society.
The Society's third event on October 4 will be held in cooperation with the International Astronautical Congress at the Observatorio Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The public event will focus on Mars Exploration and will feature international speakers from the IAF Congress and from The Planetary Society.
The Society's goal is to advance the exploration of the solar system and to continue the search for extraterrestrial life. The year 2000 marks The Planetary Society's 20th anniversary, and World Space Week offers the perfect opportunity to celebrate two decades of Society support for and participation in planetary exploration.