The International Space Station has been a beacon of what can be achieved when countries work together to venture out into our solar system.
But now the United Nations is planning to enter the space race itself after signing a deal to launch a space plane into low Earth orbit in 2021.
It is hoping to give those countries too poor to afford their own space programme the chance to send payloads into orbit around the Earth.
The UN’s Office of Outer Space Affairs has signed a deal with private space firm Sierra Nevada to have the sole use of one of its Dream Chaser space planes.
It will be the first time the UN has launched its own mission into space.
Some have compared the UN’s entrance into the space race to the early days of the Space Federation in Star Trek.
Developing countries will be the first to be offered a chance to take part in the 14-day mission, but any member state of the UN will be able to participate.
Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, Simonetta Di Pippo said: ‘The space arena is growing increasingly diverse as private industry actors become more involved in space technologies and exploration.
‘At UNOOSA we are committed to helping all countries benefit from space technologies and capabilities.
‘I am pleased that SNC has partnered with us to provide such tangible opportunities in pursuit of this goal.
‘It’s great to see a company like SNC bring their expertise to UNOOSA’s holistic approach to capacity building and our goal of bringing the benefits of space to all.’
The UN said it was expected experiments in microgravity, remote sensing and space hardware testing to be included in the first flight.
However, it also said it is looking for commercial sponsors to help fund the mission, raising doubts over whether enough cash will be found to get it off the ground.
The Sierra Nevada Dream chaser is a reusable space plane that looks like a mini-Space Shuttle.
It is designed to deliver around 6 tons (5,500kg) of payload into a low Earth orbit or to the International Space Station.
The first orbital flight is due to take place in November this year before it will begin making deliveries to the ISS for Nasa in around 2019, if successful.
A second version of the Dream Chaser is being designed to transport up to seven crew members and cargo to low Earth orbit.
Mark Sirangelo, corporate vice president for space systems at Sierra Nevada, said: ‘Our vision, in partnership with the UN, is to provide UN Member States with affordable access to space and a range of multi-mission opportunities using the Dream Chaser spacecraft to host a wide range of payloads.
‘Countries will be able to customize their participation level commensurate with the maturity of their space capabilities and national desires, while engaging their universities, industrial companies and government laboratories, and most importantly, their people.
‘We offer a complete solution for participation, providing not only the spacecraft, but all aspects of flight including mission planning and operations.’