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Stories From The UN Archive: UN-identified Flying Objects In Space

11 April

From the General Assembly’s first consideration of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) to welcoming astronauts fresh from a walk on the Moon, this #ThrowbackThursday, we looked back at the UN’s role in the space age ahead of the International Day of Human Space Flight, marked annually on 12 April.

UN tops NASA’s interstellar playlist

Before launching into space in 1977, the United States space agency, NASA, asked the UN to provide materials for a playlist to record an album – the "Golden Record" – to be sent to the stars. In fact, the first words on the vinyl record itself are those of the then-UN Secretary-General, expressing hope for peace and friendship with whoever discovers and plays it.

If you visit UN Headquarters, a replica of the Golden Record is on display alongside other space oddities, including an actual piece of the Moon.

Bill Nye, “The Science Guy” and CEO of the Planetary Society, walks viewers through how to decipher the Golden Record, its significance today and how reverence for the universe can inspire action for our planet.

Watch the full video here.

Did the General Assembly ever consider UFOs?

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In 1977 and 1978, at the request of Grenada, the General Assembly took up the issue of UFOs.

Included on the Assembly’s agenda for its 32nd and 33rd sessions was the item “Establishment of an agency or a department of the United Nations for undertaking, co-ordinating and disseminating the results of research into unidentified flying objects and related phenomena”.

While draft resolutions sponsored by Grenada in each session were not pressed to vote and were not adopted, the world body did adopt decisions 32/424 and 33/426.

In 1978, the General Assembly decided to invite “interested Member States to take appropriate steps to coordinate on a national level scientific research and investigation into extraterrestrial life, including unidentified flying objects, and to inform the Secretary-General of the observations, research and evaluation of such activities”.

Find links to both Assembly decisions here, courtesy of Ask Dag, the service catering to inquiring minds in Chinese, English, French and Spanish, at the UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library.

Fresh from the Moon walk

Jumping back further, United States astronauts fresh from a Moon walk visited UN Headquarters to much fanfare in August 1969.

Neil Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin and Michael Collins of Apollo 11, the first humans to land on the moon, were honoured at a ceremony at the north plaza of the UN General Assembly Building.

Listen to the full UN Radio episode in 1969 on their visit here.


Right after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, UNOOSA, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, was established and has since been monitoring developments across more than 77 successful lunar missions as well as other journeys into space. These days, the UN space agency is getting ready to host the UN Conference on Sustainable Lunar Activities in Vienna in June.

Watch UNOOSA’s latest youth competition winners here.

In 1959, the General Assembly created a committee to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity for peace, security and development.

Instrumental in creating the five treaties and five principles of outer space, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) has mandated duties that include keeping pace with rapid advances in space technology.

‘Like entering a dream state’

What’s it like being in outer space?

In 1990, 17 astronauts from around the world shared their out-of-this-world experiences in Our Planet Earth, a timeless documentary produced for the UN by Lemle Pictures, Inc. with cooperation of the Association for Space Explorers and the Canadian International Development Agency.

“It was the greatest feeling I ever had in my entire life,” said one astronaut. “Seeing the black sky and the bright sun. This is really impossible, but I saw it.”

Another said he had to go to the bathroom, which meant draping a curtain around himself, and from a side window, he caught his first glimpse of Earth while hurtling through space.

One said he immediately gasped “God is great”.

Yet another said he tried clumsily manoeuvring in a state of weightlessness, finding himself awkwardly jammed against a window when he was awestruck by both the view and the magnificence of Earth.

One summed up a commonly shared feeling among the space travellers, saying “I felt a love for all the inhabitants of the Earth. I just wanted to love them all.”

On #ThrowbackThursday, UN News is highlighting epic moments across the UN’s past, cultivated from the UN Audiovisual Library’s 49,400 hours of video recordings and 18,000 hours of audio chronicling.

Visit UN Video’s Stories from the UN Archive playlist here and our accompanying series here. Join us next Thursday for another dive into history.

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