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UN Week – 1/30/2012

January 30, 2012

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

by John and Douglas Carey 

Contents of this issue: UN’s Holocaust Remembrance Day; Coping with space debris

On January 27, Deputy US Permanent Representative Rosemary Di Carlo spoke these words:

“The theme of this day of remembrance is particularly apt, and particularly painful. Usually, when we remember the Holocaust, we remember the adults who perished. After all, they had left some record of their lives. They had made some impression on the world. They had done things that could be remembered, and so they were remembered – by many, and above all, by the family members and friends who had escaped being devoured.

“The children were different. They never had a chance to leave their mark. They are so painful to remember because their futures, their lives, were stolen in their entirety. And, of course, their murder is of a particular kind, in that it lays absolutely bare the horror of the Holocaust. Whatever mad delusions the authors of the Holocaust had about Jews as the enemy, these could hardly apply to children. This was genocide, simply and completely.

“Perhaps this is why the diary of Anne Frank, when it was published in the 1950s, hit the world with such force, and continues to do so. In the summer of 1942, soon after she began keeping her diary and not long before she and her family went into hiding, Anne Frank wrote, “It seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.” This was one of the few times when this wise young girl was utterly wrong.

“Anne Frank left us an account of something that is rarely set down: a child’s innocent life as faithfully recorded by herself. She made the abstract real, and made our loss concrete. She helped us never to forget.

“There are actually some, incredible as it always seems, who would deny that this Holocaust took place, or seek to minimize it as simply another episode in the long story of mankind’s crimes. But evidence matters. There is more than enough of it. And it lasts. We will fight denial for as long as it takes. We will fight it for the sake of all those children who perished.

“For those children did survive the horror, and went on to enrich our societies. Many went to Israel and to the United States. Between 1945 and 1952, more than 80,000 survivors moved to the United States. Some came later. Many have taken prominent positions that promote a better society, justice, respect for human rights, freedom of religion— people like Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier. I would like to pay tribute to them and the other survivors who are here today. It is an honor to be in your presence, and to represent the United States in commemorating all the children who were lost. Elie Wiesel once said: “memory has become the sacred duty of all people of goodwill.” On this day of remembrance, the United States stands with all those who pledge never to forget.

Coping with space debris.

          A Secretariat note, A/AC.105/C.1/101, on national research on space debris, safety of space objects with nuclear power sources on board and problems relating to their collision with space debris, cited the website of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs,, where a Japanese “Report on space debris-related activities in Japan” will be made available.

          On page 5 of the note, the following from Japan’s report appears under a heading of Investigation of impact damage: “Historically, debris impact damages have been investigated for manned systems to confirm the impact of debris of several millimetres in size. However, since a usual satellite tends to be damaged even by debris smaller than 1 mm, additional data are needed. Debris impact damages of satellites are investigated by hypervelocity impact experiments, and then damage-limit equations are developed. As the impact experiment can hardly cover speeds higher than 10 km per second, numerical simulation is essential to verify the effects caused by velocities of 10 km per second or higher.” Ten km per second equals 36,000 km per hour according to my math.

          The Secretariat note at page 6 quotes a Swiss report as follows “The population of space debris has increased drastically in recent years through explosions of deactivated satellites and collisions. The situation is particularly critical in the low-Earth orbit (LEO). Long-term predictions show a risk of a self-feeding collision cascading effect, called Kessler syndrome, if no measures are taken. * * *

          “Given the critical situation described above, accurate observation and monitoring of space debris are also crucial. * * * In 2010 a study to find small debris in the region of the navigation satellite constellations was conducted. That study was the first of its kind in that orbit region. The results show no indication of a breakup of a larger object in the current navigation satellite constellations.”

“As part of its commitment to meet its obligations under United Nations outer space treaties, the United Kingdom operates a statutory licensing scheme to permit the launch of its satellites and their operation in outer space. * * * The conformance of spacecraft and launch vehicles with United Nations debris mitigation guidelines and standards is an important consideration in the decision to grant a licence.”

So, if you already knew that the UN has space debris mitigation guidelines and standards, you can go to the head of the class.

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