UN May Appoint Ambassador to Visiting Aliens

by Nancy Atkinson on September 27, 2010

Image from the 1951 movie 'The Day the Earth Stood Still.' Credit: IMBD.com

UPDATE: OK, this seemed like a cool story, reported by many news sources, but apparently, it isn’t true. The Discovery Discoblog has the details. . I guess there was a truth abduction.

If aliens ever visit Earth and actually do use the time-worn phrase, “Take me to your leader,” or if a SETI search ever finds a signal of an alien civilization saying “hello,” there may be someone ready and waiting to respond. The United Nations is considering selecting a special ambassador to be the first point of contact for aliens wishing to communicate with Earth. Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist and currently head of the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is expected to be named to the position.

“Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a ‘take me to your leader’ person,” said Richard Crowther, in an article in the UK newspaper, the Telegraph.

Crowther is an expert in space law at the UK space agency who leads delegations to the UN. Reportedly, the plan to make UNOOSA the coordinating body for dealing with alien encounters will be debated by UN scientific advisory committees and should eventually reach the body’s general assembly.

The proposal is said to have been prompted by the recent discovery of hundreds extrasolar planets, which makes the discovery of extraterrestrial life more probable than ever.

Ms. Othman said in a recent talk to fellow scientists, “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that someday human kind will received signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”

But will visiting ET’s be greeted with open arms, or with a conditional sterilization? Under the Outer Space Treaty written in 1967, (which UNOOSA oversees) UN members agreed to protect Earth against contamination by alien species by “sterilizing” them. Reportedly, Othman supports a more tolerant approach.

But physicist Stephen Hawking has warned that aliens should be treated with caution.

“I imagine they might exist in massive ships,” he said, “having used up all the resources from their home planet. The outcome for us would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.” Alien abduction would be the least of our worries.

In the meantime, US citizens wishing to be ‘ambassadors’ for space exploration should consider joining JPL’s Solar System Ambassador program. This is a great program (which I am honored to participate in) to spread the word about the wonders of excitement of space exploration and science. Find out more at the SSA website, and if interested, the program is now taking applications for new ambassadors. Hurry, as applications are being taken until September 30, 2010.

Source: The Telegraph

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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