PARIS－The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has awarded the UNESCO Medal on Space Science to the first Chinese national sent to space, Yang Liwei, along with three other prominent international space pioneers, on the evening of Oct 27 at the organization’s headquarters in Paris.
The three other laureates of the 2017 edition－who, with Yang, were the first recipients of the award－are Valentina Tereshkova, the Russian cosmonaut and first woman in space; Arnaldo Tamayo Mendez, the first Cuban in space; and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station.
“I thank you all for your courage and commitment,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who concluded with “an appeal, for you to continue on your scientific journey, and also to return to UNESCO as often as possible, to reach out to younger generations, to share UNESCO’s message to build peace in the minds of men and women.”
Unable to attend the ceremony himself, Yang was represented by Shen Yang, ambassador and permanent delegate of China to UNESCO at the ceremony.
In a message delivered by Shen on his behalf, Yang recalled October 2003, when the world witnessed the success of China’s first manned space mission.
He noted that a UN flag was taken aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft during the mission, which he called a sign of the Chinese people’s willingness to use space for peaceful purposes and to benefit mankind, while also demonstrating China’s support of the UN’s mission and principles.
“In the future, we are willing to work together with all countries and regions that are committed to the peaceful use of outer space, with an aim to contribute more to the promotion of scientific progress and peace and development of the world,” Yang was quoted as saying.
The UNESCO Medal on Space Science, announced in June, is awarded by the head of UNESCO to prominent scientists, public figures and organizations involved with the development of space science in the spirit of UNESCO.
The awardees were selected by the International Commission for the Creation of the UNESCO Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems, an integrated knowledge base dedicated to Earth life.