United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Dear Delegates,

As a Co-Director of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to HNMUN 2017! I am a junior at Harvard concentrating in East Asian Studies with a focus on Japan and Korea. In addition to my concentration, I spend much of my time studying topics related to gender, sexuality, and physics. In my free time I figure skate, play with dogs, eat sushi, and stargaze. I joined Harvard’s International Relations Council in my freshman year because I love how Model UN creates a platform through which college students can deliberate over a variety of interdisciplinary interests while also challenging their negotiation, collaboration, and public speaking skills. I look forward to incorporating my interests into UNCOPUOS at HNMUN 2017.

Over the four days of conference, you will engage with one of two topics— Solar Storms or Asteroids— and their threat to the way of life to which we have grown so accustomed. Both are natural disasters that originate from outer space, and both range from causing a blip on a radar to causing mass extinction. As delegates, you will face the challenge of developing international policy for preventing and handling such disasters, while simultaneously engaging with issues such as responsibility, technology, funding, and public support— all factors that complicate humankind’s mastering of the Final Frontier.

During conference, I will be in charge of developing and executing crisis such that committee accurately simulates the unpredictability of space. For HNMUN 2015, I served as an Assistant Director to the Futuristic Commission on Space Development, which provided me with valuable experience in developing space-related crises for the ECOSOC format. For HNMUN 2016, I co-directed the Futuristic Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also substantially engaged with technology in the context of international affairs through crisis. In combining these experiences and my own personal interests, as a Co-Director, I intend to develop a crisis plan that reflects the unpredictability of space, incorporates science into policy, and encourages substantive strength. I am thrilled to incorporate my own interests in astrophysics and international policy into UNCOPUOS!

Through our shared experience and interest in science, policy, and staffing a relatively science-heavy committee, Sohum and I fully understand the complexity of the issues that will be addressed during conference. If you have any questions or concerns regarding substance or committee structure, feel free to reach out to us via our committee email.

Peace and long life,
Miranda Feliciano Tyson
Co-Director, United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
Harvard National Model United Nations 2017

Dear Delegates,

As Co-Director of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, I am thrilled to welcome you to the Sixty-Third Session of HNMUN! Over the course of our time together, I hope to challenge you to balance on the cutting edge of science, technology, and policy—fusing the three together, in order to take on questions that are (quite literally) out of this world.

I am a junior at Harvard, where I study Environmental Science and Public Policy, with a focus on the connection between energy and climate change. I am fascinated by the fusion of science and government that powers our society, and have been actively involved in increasing the scientific literacy of public policy research, popular media, and political campaigns. A proud New Jersey native, I have found a wonderful second home here at Harvard. In my free time, I am an enthusiastic (if not exceptionally well-tuned) tenor saxophonist, a voracious consumer of nuclear history, and a chocolate ice cream devotee.

As someone who had never stepped foot in a committee room until sophomore year of college, I love the opportunity Model UN gives us to experience what it is like to be a modern policymaker—to grapple with the intimate connections between technology and geopolitics that are slowly but surely reshaping our society.

Nowhere is that more true than in space. As humanity becomes more and more dependent on technology in our everyday lives, as our population grows and our cities expand, we are also becoming increasingly exposed to the unique kind of low-probability, high-risk threats that come flying out of the heavens without warning.

As delegates to UNCOPUOS, you might choose to confront the prospect of solar storms that threaten to disrupt our communications systems and bring down our energy infrastructure—the nerves and arteries of the modern world. Or, you might choose to contemplate the close calls with asteroids which remind us of our fragility as a species, and the substantial efforts that are needed before we can effectively defend ourselves from these errant chunks of the early solar system.

During committee, I will be your guide to the substantive intricacies of international space policy, the challenges of advanced technological development, and the geopolitics of the Final Frontier. I have experienced Model UN from both sides of the dais, as a competitor for Harvard’s intercollegiate team, as well as an Assistant Director for the Futuristic Shanghai Cooperation Organization at HNMUN 2016. As your Co-Directors, Miranda and I hope to combine our Model UN experience with our interests in science, government, international intrigue, and civilization-scale challenges, to develop a rewarding committee experience that will not only challenge your substantive and strategic skills, but also expose you to the frontiers of this brave new world we live in.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via our committee email.

Keep your eye on the skies,
Sohum Pawar
Co-Director, United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
Harvard National Model United Nations 2017

Topic Area A: Solar Storms

On September 1, 1859, sky-watchers around the world gazed up in awe, as the Northern Lights lit up the skies all the way from the Arctic to Cuba. But it wasn’t just those with their eyes to the heavens who took note of this otherworldly phenomenon: across the United States and Europe, telegraph systems failed, in sudden eruptions of sparks and flames. Fast forward to the early hours of March 13, 1989. Without warning, Quebec’s entire electrical grid collapsed just before 3:00 am, leaving six million people without power, in a matter of minutes. The culprit in both cases? A solar storm, striking at the Achilles heel of modern civilization.

Solar storms are a natural phenomenon: the Sun regularly emits brilliant bursts of radiation known as solar flares, often accompanied by giant tongues of charged particles called coronal mass ejections. When these emissions—as powerful as billions of nuclear weapons—slam into the Earth’s atmosphere, they can wreak havoc with modern technology. Solar storms can disrupt GPS systems, damage satellites and electronics on the ground, and even—as we saw in 1859, and again in 1989—knock entire communications networks and electrical grids offline. In today’s world, the ripple effects from such a storm would touch every sector of society, from public health, to finance, to national security, potentially causing upwards of $2 trillion in damage to critical global infrastructure.

While a storm of this magnitude is far from imminent, solar storms of all shapes and sizes pose an ongoing challenge for our increasingly technology-dependent society. And yet, the international community currently lacks a comprehensive policy approach to dealing with the disruption caused by solar storms. In choosing this topic area, delegates to UNCOPUOS will grapple with questions much like those faced by real policymakers every day, as they strive to meet the demands of a world that is increasingly complex and technologically advanced, and yet, just as fragile as ever.

Can the global community try to preempt the effects of solar storms, or are we limited to trying to limit the damage they can do? Can international efforts drive development and adoption of advanced, solar storm-resistant technologies? If so, whose responsibility is it to support those efforts? How can we build coalitions to tackle such low-probability, massive-impact threats? What’s the best way to prevent global systems from grinding to a halt, due to ripple effects? And will a plan put in place today really hold up in the face of a solar storm? These are just a few of the questions delegates will have the opportunity to explore further in committee.

Topic Area B: Asteroid-Related Disasters

On February 15th, 2013, a 60-foot diameter meteor traveling over fifty times the speed of sound exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Due to the brightness of the explosion, hundreds reported burns, temporary blindness, and eye pain. The subsequent shock wave of the explosion shattered windows for miles, causing over a thousand people to seek medical attention for lacerations from glass. The shock wave, upon reaching the ground, caused a seismic disruption that registered as would a magnitude 2.7 earthquake. Though there were no reported deaths due to the meteor, Chelyabinsk and surrounding areas experienced infrastructural damage in over 6,000 buildings which cost approximately $33 million to repair.

A phenomenon with a wide variety of disaster potential, asteroids come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from ones that are too small to even survive through earth’s atmosphere, to ones that are so large that they can cause mass-extinction level events such as one experienced by the dinosaurs. Despite the devastating potential that asteroids have, the international community has yet to develop policy to handle any magnitude of asteroid. The astrophysics community may provide a scientific recommendation on how to handle an earth-bound space-rock, but it is up to the international community to determine how to organize the appropriate resources, technology, and public support to ensure that such a plan can be carried out.

For this topic area of UNCOPUOS, delegates must grapple with how humankind can combine both science and policy to ensure that we are well-equipped to handle any sort of asteroid that approaches earth. Whose responsibility is it to deflect an asteroid and/or handle the damage caused by a deflectable asteroid that hits earth? How do we handle both the injuries and infrastructural damage caused by undetectable asteroids such as in the case of Chelyabinsk? How might the international community involve the growing spacefaring private sector in their technological efforts in handling asteroids? These are all questions that delegates must grapple with in developing a comprehensive resolution for this topic area.