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The State Department on Thursday hosted the first-ever ministerial-level meeting focused on bolstering global cooperation in space exploration during which some 35 space-faring countries gathered in Washington, D.C. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns called the International Space Exploration Forum “an unprecedented gathering” held during “an unprecedented time for space exploration.” He noted that last year alone the United States’ Voyager 1 became the first manmade object to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space, China became the third country to land on the moon, and India also launched its Mars Orbiter Mission. Last year also marked 15 consecutive years at the International Space Station. “As the number of space faring nations increases, as states’ monopoly and technology erodes, and as commercial interest in space exploration grows, international cooperation will prove more important than ever,” said Burns. He added, “The question facing us today is whether we can muster the courage and political will to advance space exploration and ensure that cooperation continues to trump competition.” Specifically Burns cited three areas for enhanced collaboration in space, including encouraging more countries to play a role in the International Space Station; encouraging commercial competition for space ventures; and increasing protection from near-earth objects and space debris. (Burns transcript)