Apollo 11 and Malta
“On this unique and historic occasion when man first set foot on a planet outside his own, the people of Malta join the rest of the world in saluting the men whose courage and dedication, backed by the untiring efforts of scientists and countless collaborators, have made possible this new conquest in space and in the same way as Malta has advocated peace below the waters of the world she fervently prays that peace shall continue to reign in the vastness of space beyond it.”
Giorgio Borg Olivier
The fortieth anniversary of the first moon landing will be celebrated next week. On 20th July 1969 Neil Armstrong was the first man to step on the moon, saying “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind”.
Just before leaving the moon the astronauts left a silicon disc on the surface. This disc contained goodwill messages from the leaders of 73 countries around the world, including Malta. There was a message from President Nixon and there were also lists of US congressmen and NASA administrators.
It is interesting to analyse Borg Olivier’s message. Besides discussing the importance of the occasion and saluting the people who made it possible, the former Maltese Prime Minister augurs “that peace shall continue to reign in the vastness of space” after mentioning that “Malta has advocated peace below the waters”.
Borg Olivier is here referring to Malta’s efforts to foster peace at the United Nations. When he addressed the General Assembly in 1965 he outlined the elements for the creation of a peaceful world order: disarmament, peacekeeping; peaceful settlement of disputes, and the socio-economic development of poor States. His final proposal marked the beginning of the initiative which would lead to the re-writing of the international law of the sea.
In 1967 Malta’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Arvid Pardo, introduced Malta’s initiative on the law of the sea. Malta proposed that the common heritage of mankind cannot be appropriated. This lead to the 1982 United Nations convention on the law of the sea. However, Malta’s concept of the common heritage of mankind was adopted by the United Nations in the 1979 Agreement “Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and other Bodies” where the moon was pronounced “The Province of all Mankind”. At the Space Law Symposium, in March 2009 in Vienna, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the “Moon Agreement”, Judge Helmut Tuerck stated: “On 1 November 1967, Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta presented a Memorandum at the United Nations General Assembly which proposed that the seabed and the ocean floor beyond the limits of national jurisdiction be declared the “common heritage of mankind”, not subject to national appropriation, and reserved exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
Interestingly the plaque that was left on the moon by Apollo 11 stated “Here Men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969. We came in peace for all mankind.”
This concept inspired the International Year of Astronomy Malta Committee to produce an image of the moon taken from 40 countries from all 5 continents “The Moon for all Mankind”. This image and its animation will be shown at a commemoration of the anniversary of Apollo 11 at 7.30pm at the cinema at St James Cavalier on the 21st and 22nd July 2009. This initiative is organised by the IYA committee, the US embassy and St James Centre for Creativity. http://iya2009malta.page.tl/
1. “Towards an Equitable International Order: Borg Olivier’s Contribution”
Address by Professor David Attard, Auberge D’Aragon, 15 December 2008
2. SPACE LAW SYMPOSIUM 2009
30th Anniversary of the “Moon Agreement”:Retrospect and Prospects
The Negotiation of the “Moon Agreement”
Judge Helmut Tuerk, Vice-President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
Vienna, 23 March 2009
© Gordon Caruana-Dingli is a surgeon. He chairs the International Year of Astronomy Malta committee.