International Space Year

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The International Space Year (ISY) was 1992, the year of the quincentenary of Christopher Columbus's voyage to the Americas in 1492. First proposed by U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga, the designation of 1992 as International Space Year was endorsed by 18 national and international space agencies, who also proposed the year's theme, "Mission to Planet Earth". Eventually, 29 national space agencies and 10 international organizations took part in coordinated activities to promote space exploration and the use of sustainable technology on Earth.[1][2]

United Nations endorsement[edit]

The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space agreed to recognize the International Space Year to promote peaceful cooperation between nations during its 1990 session.[3] United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, addressing the World Space Congress in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1992, said, "One of the central goals of International Space year is to highlight the importance of understanding the Earth as a single, complex, interdependent system and to stress the unique role that space science and technology can play in promoting that understanding."[1]

Global activities[edit]

International Space Year was celebrated by 29 space agencies in various countries with the purpose of establishing peaceful international relations in space programs.[1][3] International Space Year conferences were held regularly in many nations.


In Australia, many public events were organized to augment public awareness of space by the National Space Society chapters of Australia. CSIRO led the "Mission to Planet Earth" Land Cover Change project, using satellites to study plant life on Earth in relation to climate and civilization. CSIRO and various Australian Universities also studied the ocean using European and Japanese satellites. Additionally, a series of commemorative stamps was issued by the Australia Post for International Space Year.[4]


In Tokyo, Japan, a conference—the Asia-Pacific International Space Year Conference—was held to discuss the "Mission to Planet Earth" theme and international cooperation.[5]


In Russia, the Foundation for Social Inventions launched Space Flight Europe-America 500 in an attempt to promote a peaceful social and economic relationship between the former Soviet states and the United States of America. Space Flight Europe-America 500 consisted of a Proton rocket carrying various items symbolizing peace, which orbited the Earth for a few days.[6] The space craft was scheduled to land near Washington in late November. Its cost was estimated by Russian authorities at over US$200 million.[7]

United States[edit]

In the United States, NASA, which led the US space agencies,[2] responded to ISY with the completion or creation of many important space programs, including numerous collaborations with other domestic and international space agencies. A total of twelve programmes were launched, the most in any year up to that point. NASA focused particularly on projects — such as the Mars Observer, which studied the atmosphere and climate of Mars — that examined the possibility of sustaining human life outside Earth, as well as those exploring problems that existed on Earth at the time.[8] ISY was also recognized with the opening of a new exhibit, entitled "Where Next, Columbus?" at the National Air and Space Museum.[9]

They Might Be Giants[edit]

ISY logo used for Apollo 18

Alternative rock band They Might Be Giants were designated by NASA as the "Musical Ambassador" of the International Space Year when they were searching the NASA archives for images for their album, Apollo 18. The title of the album came directly from the NASA Apollo program—the last mission of which was Apollo 17.[10] Accordionist and singer/songwriter John Linnell jokingly speculated that an album named Apollo 18 would be a cheaper alternative to actually manning a flight to the Moon as part of the International Space Year, although the album title was selected prior to the band's involvement with ISY.[11] In support of the celebration, the album's back cover artwork and some promotional materials feature the International Space Year logo. Linnell explained that "[the band is] supposed to be included on lists of events happening in connection with International Space Year...In other words, on a particular month they'll say in some town there's this lecture about space telescopes and then there's this They Might Be Giants concert."[12] On a different occasion, however, he pointed out that he "[didn't] think most people have heard that this is International Space Year".[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Mission to Planet Earth". United Nations Chronicle, 29 no. 4. (December, 1992): 49. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  2. ^ a b "PRESIDENT BUSH LAUNCHES INTERNATIONAL SPACE YEAR", a NASA ISY press release. January 24, 1992. Accessed here[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  3. ^ a b "Agreement reached on guidelines for nuclear power sources." United Nations Chronicle 27, no. 3 (September 1990): 35. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  4. ^ Kingwell, Jeff. "International Space Year". Year Book Australia, 1992. Accessed through the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  5. ^ Asia-Pacific International Space Year (ISY) Conference, Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 16-20, 1992, Proceedings. Vols. 1 & 2 abstract. Hosted on the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System. Retrieved 2012-09-18.
  6. ^ "From Russia, With Love: 'Peace Rocket' Heads to U.S. : Space: Craft is slated to splash down off Washington state with cargo of goodwill items." Los Angeles Times, November 16, 1992. Accessed on Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  7. ^ Dietrich, Bill. "Space -- Rocketing Toward Peace". Seattle Times, November 22, 1992. Accessed here. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  8. ^ Fisk, Lennard A. "Space science." National Forum 72, no. 3 (Summer92 1992): 20. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  9. ^ "Where next, Columbus?" Futurist 24, no. 4 (July 1990): 47. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  10. ^ Bresnick, Adam. "They Might Be Giants". Creem, May 1992.
  11. ^ Schlosberg, Karen. "Giant Steps: Apollo 18 Goes Where No Band Have Gone Before". The Boston Phoenix. 20 May, 1992.
  12. ^ Jackson, Joab. "How They Might Be Giants Became the House Band for NASA". New Route magazine, May 1992.
  13. ^ Rumpus magazine, October 1992.

Further reading[edit]