Published September 27, 2010
Is the United Nations set to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth's first contact for any aliens that may come visiting? Nonsense, said the U.N.
Mazlan Othman, the head of the U.N.'s little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is set to describe her potential new role as chief alien ambassador next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society's Kavli conference center in Buckinghamshire, England, reported London's Sunday Times. "Nonsense," responded the U.N.
"The mandate of the Office for Outer Space Affairs is defined by the United Nations General Assembly and there are no plans to change the current mandate," Jamshid Gaziyev, a spokesman for the agency, told FoxNews.com.
The Times article claimed that Othman would tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before -- and that means the U.N. must be ready to coordinate humanity's response to any "first contact."
Instead, she will use the conference to discuss the problems posed by "space debris mitigation, near-Earth objects (asteroids) and the coordination mechanism for the use of space technology in the United Nations system," Gaziyev said.
The Times article cited a talk Othman gave recently to fellow scientists, where she said: "The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive 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 U.N. is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination."
Professor Richard Crowther, an expert in space law and governance at the U.K. Space Agency and who leads British delegations to the U.N. on such matters, said: "Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a 'take me to your leader' person."
However, he thinks humanity's first encounter with any intelligent aliens is more likely to be via radio or light signals from a distant planet than by beings arriving on Earth. And, he suggests, even if we do encounter aliens in the flesh, they are more likely to be microbes than anything intelligent.