It was a funny enough story, and various bloggers have been running with the humor in it. The person who has been appointed to be Earth's emissary to any and all alien visitors is Mazlan Othman--a Malaysian astrophysicist who is head of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA, also known as OOSA). One would imagine that one of her first jobs would be to revise the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 which UNOOSA oversees. According to the treaty as it is currently formulated, UN members agree to protect Earth against contamination by alien species by "sterilizing" them.
But all kidding aside, Claudia Rosett has a warning about The Dark Side of a UN Envoy for Extraterrestrials:
Who else holds a prominent position in OOSA’s orbit? Why, you guessed it! The head of Iran’s space agency, Ahmad Talebzadeh. This Iranian official was recently “elected” at the UN for a two-year term chairing (you couldn’t make this up — see page 2) the Legal Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space — for which the Othman-headed OOSA serves as the secretariat.Talebzadeh giving a visiting alien a collection of Ahmadinejad's UN speeches would be the least of our problems.
Together with OOSA and one other German-chaired subcommittee on outer space, the job of this Iran-chaired Legal Subcommittee is to track legal and technological developments and applications related to space, in order to provide information and advice to UN member states and international organizations, including the rest of the UN itself. So, if the Malaysian head of OOSA ends up doubling as a UN envoy tasked with crafting a program for representing the “sensitivities” of all mankind to aliens, it would be nothing more than normal UN procedure should she end up huddling with Talebzadeh, head of the Iranian space agency, to draft a plan for the planet. That might be less worrisome were Malaysia and Iran a tad less cozy these days — but as it is, Malaysia was one of the three countries which last November at the UNs International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna voted against rebuking Iran over its sanctions-busting nuclear program.[emphasis added]
Keep in mind that the UN does not have a good history when it comes to interstellar envoys. According to The Australian:
The UN has tried previously to contact alien life. The two Voyager spacecraft launched in 1977 carried a message from Kurt Waldheim, then secretary-general, saying: “We step out of our solar system into the universe seeking only peace and friendship.”Appointing someone from a country which is working towards building nuclear weapons and whose leader has threatened to wipe Israel off the map, however, is not a problem.
However, scientists are now embarrassed by Mr Waldheim's deployment as an interstellar envoy because it later emerged that he had been an enthusiastic member of the Nazi party.
See also: Video: Star Trek Episode Validated By Actual Alien Visitations During Cold War?
Technorati Tag: UNOOSA and Mazlan Othman and Ahmad Talebzadeh.