Committee on Space Research
FormationOctober 3, 1958; 65 years ago (1958-10-03)
Region served
Official language
English, French
Pascale Ehrenfreund
Executive Director
Dr. Jean-Claude Worms
Parent organization
International Council for Science
WebsiteCOSPAR Official website

The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) was established on October 3, 1958 by the International Council for Scientific Unions (ICSU) and its first chair was Hildegard Korf Kallmann-Bijl.[1] 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.

General Assembly

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.[2] The 41st General Assembly in Istanbul was cancelled due to the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt.[3]

Year Place Country
46th 2026 Florence  Italy
45th 2024 Busan  South Korea
44th 2022 Athens  Greece
43rd 2020 Sydney  Australia
42nd 2018 Pasadena  United States
41st 2016 Istanbul (cancelled)  Turkey
40th 2014 Moscow  Russia
39th 2012 Mysore  India
38th 2010 Bremen  Germany
37th 2008 Montreal  Canada
36th 2006 Beijing  China
35th 2004 Paris  France
34th 2002 Houston  United States
33rd 2000 Warsaw  Poland
32nd 1998 Nagoya  Japan
31st 1996 Birmingham  United Kingdom
30th 1994 Hamburg  Germany
29th 1992 Washington, D.C.  United States
28th 1990 The Hague  Netherlands
27th 1988 Espoo  Finland
26th 1986 Toulouse  France
25th 1984 Graz  Austria
24th 1982 Ottawa  Canada
23rd 1980 Budapest  Hungary
22nd 1979 Bangalore  India
21st 1978 Innsbruck  Austria
20th 1977 Tel-Aviv  Israel
19th 1976 Philadelphia  United States
18th 1975 Varna  Bulgaria
17th 1974 Sao Paulo  Brazil
16th 1973 Konstanz  Germany
15th 1972 Madrid  Spain
14th 1971 Seattle  United States
13th 1970 Leningrad  Soviet Union
12th 1969 Prague  Czechoslovakia
11th 1968 Tokyo  Japan
10th 1967 London  United Kingdom
9th 1966 Vienna  Austria
8th 1965 Mar del Plata  Argentina
7th 1964 Florence  Italy
6th 1963 Warsaw  Poland
5th 1962 Washington, D.C.  United States
4th 1961 Florence  Italy
3rd 1960 Nice  France
2nd 1959 The Hague  Netherlands
1st 1958 London  United Kingdom

Scientific Structure

Scientific Commissions

Scientific Commission A
Space Studies of the Earth's Surface, Meteorology and Climate
Scientific Commission B
Space Studies of the Earth-Moon System, Planets, and Small Bodies of the Solar System
Scientific Commission C
Space Studies of the Upper Atmospheres of the Earth and Planets Including Reference Atmospheres
Scientific Commission D
Space Plasmas in the Solar System, Including Planetary Magnetospheres
Scientific Commission E
Research in Astrophysics from Space
Scientific Commission F
Life Sciences as Related to Space
Scientific Commission G
Materials Sciences in Space
Scientific Commission H
Fundamental Physics in Space


Planetary Protection Policy

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 ([4]).

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 (;[5][6]).

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 ([7]) based on recommendations formulated by the Panel and approved by the COSPAR Bureau.

See also


  1. ^ "Scientists of World Set Up Space Group", by Walter Sullivan, The New York Times, October 4, 1958, p. 1
  2. ^ "COSPAR Scientific Assemblies". Archived from the original on 2013-05-14. Retrieved 2013-05-16.
  3. ^ COSPAR 2016 Archived 2016-07-19 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ UNOOSA 2017, Report of the Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space, 60th Session, A/72/20, United Nations, New York
  5. ^ Coustenis, A., Kminek, G., Hedman, N., 2019a. The challenge of planetary protection. ROOM Journal, June 2019, pages 44-48.
  6. ^ Coustenis, A., Kminek, G., Hedman, N., Ammanito, E., Deshevaya, E., Doran, P.T., Grasset, O., Green, J., Hayes, A., Lei, L., Nakamura, A., Prieto-Ballesteros, O., Raulin, F., Rettberg, P., Sreekumar, P., Tsuneta, S., Viso, M., Zaitsev, M., Zorzano-Mier, M.-P., 2019b. The COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection role, structure and activities. Space Res. Today, vol. 205, August 2019, pages 14-26,
  7. ^ Kminek, G., Conley, C., Hipkin, V., Yano, H., 2017. COSPAR’s Planetary Protection Policy. Space Res. Today, vol. 200, December 2017.