Ambassador’s remarks on the occasion of World Space Week 2023

Remarks of Ambassador Richard L. Buangan

On the occasion of World Space Week 2023

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
October 7, 2023


Mr. Gurragchaa, esteemed guests, scientists and explorers, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

Thank you to the Dudu Education Foundation for inviting me to open this event.  I hope we can use this time together today to renew our passion for space exploration and look to future possibilities to collaborate during this Space Week.

I am inspired to see the spirit of exploration is alive and well here today in the faces of so many young people. I have been learning that that same spirit can be traced all the way back to the early days of the Mongolian Empire.

Nearly 800 years ago, Chinggis Khan’s grandsons embraced the cosmos. Khubilai Khan invited Persian astronomers to build observatories across the Mongolian Empire and introduced the first astrolabe to the Yuan Dynasty. Hulegu Khan’s love for the stars would lead him to build the Maragheh observatory that still stands today in Iran. Curiosity about the heavens and the beauty of the night sky has always been part of Mongolia’s rich intellectual tradition. it is that same sense of curiosity that inspired Mongolians in the modern age to continue the pursuit of their ancestors to unlock the wonders of space.

42 years ago, our hero Mr. Gurragchaa, who was born to a herder family in Bulgan province, took his historic voyage to become Mongolia’s first person to pierce the cosmos. His name, like that of my childhood hero Neil Armstrong, will forever be etched in history as one of the very few who have had the privilege of traveling to space or walking on the moon.

Though these pioneers grew up thousands of miles apart, they embodied the same courageous spirit to take a leap of faith and risk their lives to expand humanity’s knowledge of the universe. As President Kennedy put it, they did these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

Today, space exploration is no longer a distant dream, but a living, breathing reality that all countries can contribute to and benefit from.

Space systems have expanded access to broadband internet to the most rural corners of the globe. We can now track natural disasters and epidemiological events, combat climate change, and track ocean and air pollution.

The commercial space sector has grown at an unprecedented rate. One recent estimate put the value of the global space economy at $469 billion US dollars in 2021.

For a generation, investments in space were the exclusive domain of the world’s superpowers. Now, driven by new commercial opportunities, the number of space faring nations has dramatically increased.

Lithuania, a country of just under three million people, has developed a national strategy to become an incubator for space start-ups. Sparsely populated New Zealand, with an abundance of sky and land, similar to Mongolia, has become a launch site for many of the world’s leading rocket companies. Singapore has leveraged international cooperation and tech expertise to become a leader in remote sensing.

These small nations are embracing big moments. So too can Mongolia. I witnessed this firsthand – the optimism and eagerness of bright young engineers who were working on Mongolia’s MARS V project.  They met with Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene during his historic visit to the United Sates. These engineers, as well as many young Mongolians working on space exploration, are hoping Mongolia will be the next country to embrace its big moment. Let me assure you, the United States also wants Mongolia to have that big moment.  Can you imagine that?  Mongolia – a landlocked country – as one of the greatest space faring nations of the 21st century and beyond?  I think it is possible.

For our part, the United States’ lasting commitment to the peaceful exploration of space will endure. Just last week, a small capsule touched down in Utah. For the first time, NASA brought a small piece of an asteroid home to earth to study. Secrets within this 4-billion-year-old rock may offer answers to the origins of our solar system and our own existence.

In the coming years, NASA’s Moon to Mars program will launch humanity’s next giant leap to the Red Planet. NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, paving the way for a long-term, sustainable lunar presence to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and prepare for future missions to Mars. Perhaps these astronauts will be equipped and trained with the help of Mongolia’s brightest engineers and scientists from the MARS V project. I am reminded of what the father of Mongolian literature Natsagdorj said of the Red Planet when he looked up at the sky:

A colorful star to be seen sparkling from far away,
A red spark walking in the midst of unlimited space.

It is Mongolia’s destiny to explore this “unlimited space”.  The MARS V project is a testament to the ability and potential of young Mongolians to contribute to that effort.

Here is the request I ask of you all today:  The United States and Mongolia and other peace-loving nations can do more to unlock the secrets of space when we work together to meet our shared aspirations. I would ask you to encourage your leaders to support efforts for Mongolia to join global, multilateral initiatives, so we can explore the heavens together. So we can do it in a peaceful, civilized, scientific manner. The world stands to benefit from Mongolia’s ingenuity, talent, and resources. The future of peaceful cooperation in space will be enriched with Mongolia’s contributions.

Ladies and gentlemen, the turmoil of world events has left us all searching for meaning and appreciating moments when we find common threads of our shared humanity.  Thankfully, there is one thing on which we can all agree:  outer space is a place where our interests and dreams, and our pursuits of those interests and dreams, can be shared.  After all, just like Mongolia’s nomadic tribes centuries ago, we all look up to the same night sky, with a longing to explore the heavens in our hearts, and share the same feeling of awe and wonder at the grandeur of this “unlimited space.”

Fellow dreamers and explorers, will you join us in this effort?

Thank you.  Баярлалаа.