|Prof. Lennard A. Fisk|
|Dr. Jean-Claude Worms|
|International Council for Science|
|Website||COSPAR Official website|
The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) was established in 1958 by the International Council for Scientific Unions (ICSU). Among COSPAR's objectives are the promotion of scientific research in space on an international level, with emphasis on the free exchange of results, information, and opinions, and providing a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect space research. These objectives are achieved through the organization of symposia, publication, and other means. COSPAR has created a number of research programmes on different topics, a few in cooperation with other scientific Unions. The long-term project COSPAR international reference atmosphere started in 1960; since then it has produced several editions of the high-atmosphere code CIRA. The code "IRI" of the URSI-COSPAR working group on the International Reference Ionosphere was first edited in 1978 and is yearly updated.
Every second year, COSPAR calls for a General Assembly (also called Scientific Assembly). These are conferences currently gathering almost three thousand participating space researchers. The most recent assemblies are listed in the table below. The 41st General Assembly in Istanbul was cancelled due to the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt.
|29th||1992||Washington, DC||United States|
|19th||1976||Philadelphia, PA||United States|
|14th||1971||Seattle, WA||United States|
|8th||1965||Mar del Plata||Argentina|
|5th||1962||Washington, DC||United States|
Responding to concerns raised in the scientific community that spaceflight missions to the Moon and other celestial bodies might compromise their future scientific exploration, in 1958 the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) established an ad-hoc Committee on Contamination by Extraterrestrial Exploration (CETEX) to provide advice on these issues. In the next year, this mandate was transferred to the newly founded Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), which as an interdisciplinary scientific committee of the ICSU (now the International Science Council - ISC) was considered to be the appropriate place to continue the work of CETEX. Since that time, COSPAR has provided an international forum to discuss such matters under the terms “planetary quarantine” and later “planetary protection”, and has formulated a COSPAR planetary protection policy with associated implementation requirements as an international standard to protect against interplanetary biological and organic contamination, and after 1967 as a guide to compliance with Article IX of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty in that area ().
The COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy, and its associated requirements, is not legally binding under international law, but it is an internationally agreed standard with implementation guidelines for compliance with Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty. States Parties to the Outer Space Treaty are responsible for national space activities under Article VI of this Treaty, including the activities of governmental and non-governmental entities. It is the State that ultimately will be held responsible for wrongful acts committed by its jurisdictional subjects.
Updating the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy, either as a response to new discoveries or based on specific requests, is a process that involves appointed members of the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection who represent, on the one hand, their national or international authority responsible for compliance with the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967, and, on the other hand, COSPAR Scientific Commissions B – Space Studies of the Earth-Moon System, Planets and Small Bodies of the Solar Systems, and F - Life Sciences as Related to Space. After reaching a consensus among the involved parties, the proposed recommendation for updating the Policy is formulated by the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection and submitted to the COSPAR Bureau for review and approval.
The new structure of the Panel and its work was described in recent publications (;).
The recently updated COSPAR Policy on Planetary Protection was published in the August 2020 issue of COSPAR's journal Space Research Today. It contains some updates with respect to the previously approved version () based on recommendations formulated by the Panel and approved by the COSPAR Bureau.