March 29, 2011
It is with great pleasure I welcome you this evening to meet our special guest, Astronaut Steven Smith. Mr. Smith has an extensive record of time spent in space. A veteran of four space flights covering 16 million miles and seven space walks totaling 49 hours and 25 minutes, Smith’s spacewalk time places him in the top five on the all-time American and World spacewalk duration lists. He has flown with the Shuttle Discovery, which recently flew its last mission, and the Shuttle Endeavour, which is on the launch pad right now for its next mission.
In 2010, to mark the 50th Anniversary of NASA President Obama remarked, “Fifty years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite. And in fulfilling this task, we will not only extend humanity’s reach in space—we will strengthen America’s leadership here on Earth.”
It is incredible to see the arc with which our space program has developed over the decades — from its beginning in a race to compete with the Soviet Union and now with the International Space Station as a paragon of international cooperation and collaboration, which encourages responsible action in space.
Our space policy now focuses on increasing this international cooperation as well as enhancing openness and transparency and confidence building measures. President Obama’s Space Policy states that all nations can contribute to building a stable space environment through greater transparency an confidence building measures. Our goal is to implement measures that address concrete problems and to avoid potential interference, mishaps, misperceptions, and miscalculations.
In our work to foster international cooperation in space, we are also working with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Here we’ve focused on areas such as space debris, which have a huge impact on the ability for all nations to conduct safe and responsible space operations. Because of the speed of objects in space, even a tiny chip of paint from a rocket can cause significant damage to satellites and even the International Space Station. The U.S. has led an effort for over ten years to develop U.N. guidelines for mitigating the creation of space debris. We’re looking at long term effects of debris in space and we’re reviewing some “best practices guidelines” to mitigate the problem in the future.
The U.S. also uses its space assets to support humanitarian and developmental needs worldwide. It has helped save lives by warning us of natural disasters, expediting search and rescue operations, and making recovery efforts faster and more effective; made agriculture and natural resource management more efficient and sustainable; expanded our frontiers; and provided global access to advanced medicine, weather forecasting, geospatial information, financial operations, broadband and other communications, and scores of other activities worldwide. In Geneva, we can appreciate the benefits of these technological advancements in our daily operations.
At this point, I’m going to turn the floor over to our guest, Steven Smith. I’m looking forward to hearing about his experiences in space and his views on how we can best collaborate in the future.