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The Conference of space scientists

 

 

The conference of the COSPAR (Committee on Space Research) opened in Florence on 10 April 1961. At the same time (no coincidence) Yuri Gagarin made the first orbit around the earth in the Vostok 1 spaceship, followed a few weeks later by the first suborbital flight by the American astronaut Shepard.

At the inauguration of the conference La Pira gave a speech of welcome which, far from being merely formal, touched on the following points especially dear to his heart:

- The novelty of the space age (“This scientific message of yours in a certain sense radically changes the history of the world at all levels: from the basic foundation of technology and the economy to the highest planes of culture, spirituality and politics. For the future destinies of the human family it opens prospects of such breadth and joyous hope as to see the most celebrated prophesies of peace and hope unexpectedly written into the real history of nations…”)

- The spiritual value which must be co-essential to scientific progress (“This scientific message of yours… takes on a new meaning: … it introduces the human being – and therefore peoples and civilizations – into the orbit of the two loftiest values of artistic and religious contemplation”).

- Enabling Florence to participate in technical-scientific exploits to do with space (“bestowing on our city the age of our era: the space age, that is, with all that this involves in terms of scientific progress and technical development on the one hand and spiritual improvement on the other”).