France Joins Artemis Accords

France Joins Artemis Accords

France is now the 20th signatory to the Artemis Accords that set out non-binding governance principles for operations on the Moon. The United States requires countries that want to participate in the U.S.-led Artemis program to agree to the Accords. An initial group of eight signed in October 2020 and 12 more have joined since from Europe, South America, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

NASA and the State Department rolled out the Accords in May 2020 reflecting NASA’s goal that the Artemis program prominently include international partners like the International Space Station does today.

The ISS is governed by an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) among the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and 11 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). NASA is extending the IGA to use as the basis for international agreements for constructing the Gateway space station that will be placed in lunar orbit since it also is a space station, but a new type of agreement was needed for operations on the lunar surface.

The 10 Artemis Accord principles are grounded in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and intended to ensure a safe, peaceful, prosperous, future in space.  They cover:

  • Peaceful Purposes
  • Transparency
  • Interoperability
  • Emergency Assistance
  • Registration of Space Objects (applies to Earth orbit as well as at the Moon)
  • Release of Scientific Data (in a timely manner, for free)
  • Protecting Heritage
  • Space Resources (extraction and utilization allowed)
  • Deconfliction of Activities (operate with due regard, establish safety zones)
  • Orbital Debris and Spacecraft Disposal

The initial group of countries that signed in October 2020 was Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Bahrain, Brazil, Colombia, Israel,the Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, and Ukraine individually joined later.

During her visit to France in November, Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the White House National Space Council, and French President Emmual Macron agreed to new space cooperation and Harris said France would soon sign the Accords.

Yesterday, France did just that at a ceremony at the residence of French Ambassador Phillipe Étienne in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with a celebration of the 60th anniversary of France’s space agency, the Centre National d’études Spatiales (CNES).  Joining CNES President Philippe Baptiste were Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, Chirag Parikh, Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, and Valda Vikmanis-Keller, Director of the State Department’s Office of Space Affairs in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

Baptiste said in a statement that the Accords “will make it possible to face new challenges and to continue to be counted among the major space powers.”

“The fact that France is joining the Artemis exploration program marks a new advance in the space cooperation we have with the United States. This is already essential for the two nations, particularly in the exploration programs for the planet Mars and Earth observation. For both our scientific community and our industry, this new framework with which we are associated will make it possible to face new challenges and to continue to be counted among the major space powers.”

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