Artemis Accords Gain More Members

Artemis Accords Gain More Members

India just became the latest country to sign the Artemis Accords. Ecuador and Spain also have recently joined bringing the total to 27. The Accords lay out principles for countries to work together effectively on the Moon and are open to all countries to sign. Although they are not legally binding, the Accords represent a commitment to peaceful cooperation in civil space activities in cislunar space.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting the United States. In a press conference with President Biden yesterday, Modi said the decision to sign the Accords is “a big leap forward in our space cooperation. In fact, in short, for India and America partnership, even the sky is not the limit.”

The Accords actually were signed on Wednesday by India’s ambassador to the United States on India’s behalf. Separately, Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs signed on Wednesday, also in Washington. Spain’s Minister of Science and Innovation signed on May 30 while NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was visiting the country. Spain is the eighth member of the European Space Agency to sign. ESA is a multinational organization, not a country, so cannot do so itself.

The Accords were developed by NASA and the State Department working with a group of other countries who became the original eight signatories on October 13, 2020: Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The 10 core principles, grounded in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, are designed to guide international participation in the U.S.-led Artemis program for sustainable exploration and use of the Moon: peaceful purposes, transparency, interoperability, emergency assistance, registration of space objects, release of scientific data, preserving outer space heritage, space resources, deconfliction of space activities, and orbital debris. They only apply to governments, not the commercial sector, and only to civil activities, not national security.

Any country may sign. There is no vetting and existing signatories cannot veto anyone else according to the State Department. In just two-and-a-half years, countries from six of the seven continents (all but Antarctica, which does not have a government) have signed with space capabilities ranging from highly advanced to emerging.

Mike Gold, who spearheaded crafting the Accords when he was at NASA during Jim Bridenstine’s tenure as Administrator, told SpacePolicyOnline via email that the “rapid adoption of the Artemis Accords by such a large and diverse group of nations has been nothing short of stunning.” The Accords are intended to “prevent conflict before it can happen” and having so many sign so quickly portends “a future of peace, prosperity, and global cooperation.” He’s particularly pleased Rwanda and Nigeria joined and hopes they are just the first. “Africa will benefit greatly from being a part of the Artemis journey and, conversely, the energy and innovation that African nations can contribute will greatly benefit the Artemis program.”

Poland hosted a meeting of Artemis Accords signatories in Gdansk this week. Fifteen countries were represented at meetings of two working groups: Emerging Space Actors, and Mitigation and Avoidance of Interference to Promote Safety in Lunar Operations.

Artemis Accords signatories held a meeting in Poland this week – together we are finding ways to make spacefaring safer, more sustainable and more inclusive for emerging space nations.

— U.S. Department of State | Science Diplomacy USA (@SciDiplomacyUSA) June 22, 2023

Thank you to @POLSA_GOV_PL for hosting the #ArtemisAccords
signatories in Gdansk! Our space cooperation has never been stronger and Poland is emerging as a true international leader in space.

— U.S. Department of State | Science Diplomacy USA (@SciDiplomacyUSA) June 22, 2023

Gold, now Chief Growth Officer at Redwire, noted that Germany, one of the most prominent members of ESA, has not yet signed. He hopes it will soon. “The Accords implement the Outer Space Treaty and numerous other international agreements. The Artemis Accords ensure that the OST is more than just words on a page. I hope that Germany soon recognizes this and demonstrates its support for operationalizing its international commitments by signing the Accords.”

Two other global space leaders, China and Russia, also haven’t joined. In 2021, they signed an agreement to work together on an International Lunar Research Station and are seeking their own partners. China reportedly is establishing an organization to oversee the effort, the International Lunar Research Station Cooperation Organization (ILRSCO).

Gold said he would “celebrate” China committing to the Artemis Accords, but if they develop their own version that would also be a “success, since the Accords are intended to act as a catalyst for creating norms of behavior and inspiring a global conversation to build a better future for all of humanity to enjoy.”

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