Artemis Accords: Belgium Makes it 34

Artemis Accords: Belgium Makes it 34

Belgium became the 34th country to sign the Artemis Accords today. The Accords are a set of non-binding principles of responsible behavior on the Moon. Belgium joins ten other members of the European Space Agency in agreeing to them.

Hadja Lahbib, Belgium’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Foreign Trade, said that “Belgium has always had its feet on the ground and its head in the stars” and signing the Accords “will open up new economic opportunities for our companies, which have world-renowned expertise in the space sector.”

Thomas Dermine, Belgium’s Secretary of State for Space Policy, called it “a necessary and important condition for the possible participation of a Belgian astronaut under the Artemis program.”

Credit: NASA

Crafted by NASA and the State Department in 2020, the Artemis Accords spell out 10 principles for how countries should work together on 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.

Eight countries became the original signatories in October 2020 and many more have joined since.

The United States is leading the Artemis program to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo era. ESA is a major partner in Artemis, providing the service module for the Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts from Earth to lunar orbit, and the Gateway space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a transfer point to the landers that will taken them down to and back from the Moon.

ESA secured three flight opportunities for European astronauts to travel to and work on Gateway as part of the agreement with NASA.  Of ESA’s 22 member states, Belgium is the 11th to sign the Accords, joining the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom. ESA itself is a space agency, not a country, so cannot sign itself.

All countries are welcome to join the Accords, whether or not they plan to conduct activities on the Moon.

From left to right: Tim Richardson, chargé d’affaires, U.S. Embassy Belgium, Raphaël Liégeois, Belgian astronaut, Thomas Dermine, Belgian secretary of state for science policy, Hadja Lahbib, Belgian minister of foreign affairs, and Frank De Winne, Belgian astronaut, during the Artemis Accords signing ceremony in Brussels. Credits: Nathan De Fortunato and NASA press release.

In a press release, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated Belgium on joining the Accords and said “It’s clear that countries around the world understand the opportunity that space presents. As the 34th signatory of the Artemis Accords, Belgium is showing great leadership in committing to responsible exploration in the 21st century.”

The U.S. State Department said it was “pleased to see Belgium deepen our close cooperation on space issues through its affirmation of the Artemis Accords’ vision for the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.”


This article was updated to include the comments from NASA Administrator Nelson and the State Department, both of which were made the day after Belgium signed.

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