When the space shuttle Endeavour launches next Friday, its payload will include more than just servicing equipment for the International Space Station (ISS). The shuttle is also slated to carry a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international analogue of the U.S. Bill of Rights, for permanent placement on board the ISS as the document nears its 60th birthday.

The Universal Declaration, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948, forms the basis of international human rights law, proclaiming in its first article that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." In a European Space Agency (ESA) statement, French astronaut Léopold Eyharts said that "in recognition of the fact that human beings are at times downtrodden, the Declaration can symbolically find its place 'above' all the peoples of the world."

Tomorrow the space-bound document will begin its journey in Paris, where the original was agreed upon by the U.N. in 1948, when French foreign affairs officials hand over a copy to Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the ESA.