UN official denies she has role representing Earth to extraterrestrials
'I think it's cool, but no, I am not about to be appointed the ambassador to aliens,' Mazlan Othman said at a conference on extraterrestrial life.
Tue, Oct 05, 2010 at 12:41 PM
ALIEN AMBASSADOR: The issue of Othman's possible role as a point person for aliens was raised nine days ago by the Sunday Times, which reported that the U.N. was poised to give Othman the position. (Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
Yes, she heads the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. No, she has not been appointed to represent the Earth in future negotiations with aliens.
That's the word from Mazlan Othman, who Tuesday debunked British press reports indicating she would be Earth's ambassador to beings from outer space if they land in "Take me to your leader" mode.
Still, it's apparent she kind of likes the idea.
"I think it's cool, but no, I am not about to be appointed the ambassador to aliens," Othman said Tuesday before speaking at a Royal Society conference dealing with extraterrestrial life.
The issue of Othman's possible role as a point person for aliens was raised nine days ago by the Sunday Times in London, which reported that the U.N. was poised to give Othman the position.
The Office for Outer Space Affairs, based in Vienna, quickly released a statement calling the story "nonsense."
Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist, said Tuesday it would make sense for the United Nations and its member states to study the important question of who should represent humanity if aliens do come to this planet. She said she does not know who should be in charge but thinks a protocol should be put in place.
"All I have been saying is that there are many forums for such discussions and the U.N. is, of course, one of those forums that can be used," she said. "I am not saying that the U.N. must be used."
UFO expert Nick Pope, who advised Britain's Ministry of Defense on extraterrestrial life, said it would be logical to make contingency plans because life beyond the planet Earth could be discovered at any time.
"We need to start thinking about the question of who speaks for Planet Earth," he said. "That is precisely what the Royal Society has been discussing for the last two days. There is quite a lot of controversy about it."
He said there is no clear legal procedure in place, and obviously no precedent, which could lead to chaos if contact is made. "My view is that it will be events-led," he said.
U.N. officials said Tuesday they could not answer "hypothetical" questions about what would happen if aliens sought a contact person on Earth.
The U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs is charged with promoting international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space and maintains the U.N.'s detailed register of satellite launches. It also helps formulate laws and principles governing the use of outer space.
The office does not have a formal role in making contingency plans in case of alien contact.
Othman said plans are not important if astronomers are able to use sophisticated equipment to find life on another planet, but could become vital if aliens come to Earth.
(Associated Press Writer Tobie Mathew in London contributed to this report.)
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