Harris Announces New Space Cooperation with France

Harris Announces New Space Cooperation with France

As part of her ongoing visit to France, Vice President Harris and French President Macron have agreed on additional space cooperation. It includes initiation of regular bilateral meetings and a partnership on a Space Climate Observatory to make space data accessible to local communities to help mitigate climate change.

Harris chairs the White House National Space Council.  Before leaving for France she announced that the first meeting of the Space Council will take place on December 1.

During a meeting with Macron at Élysée Palace, both referred to the beginning of a new era in U.S.-French cooperation. Macron briefly withdrew his ambassdor from Washington in September after he was blindsided by a deal among the United States, Britain and Australia to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, scuttling an existing $66 billion contract to buy conventional submarines from France. President Biden met with Macron in Rome last week at the G-20 summit to begin the healing process, conceding that it was handled in a “clumsy” manner. Harris’s trip is another step.

Vice President Kamala Harris and French President Emmanuel Macron. Via Twitter @VP, November 10, 2021.

Harris told Macron she was looking forward to a conversation about space and “when we think about where we have yet to explore together and the opportunities that are presented not only in terms of security, but also the opportunities that I believe will enhance our priorities around the climate crisis and what we might do in terms of an investment, in terms of cooperation with the private sector, in terms of creating rules of the road as it relates to this new frontier in space.”

A White House fact sheet explains that the two countries will begin a “comprehensive dialogue on space” involving regular bilateral meetings.

Together, we will leverage the growing importance of our civil, commercial, and national security space cooperation in order to meet our shared national and foreign policy objectives such as: addressing the climate crisis; expanding the frontiers of space; enhancing the quality of and access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; consulting on norms, guidelines, principles, and rules for promoting the long-term sustainability of the outer space environment and the security of space activities; and enabling a sustainable space economy that ensures humanity accrues the benefits space has to offer. We committed to an initial emphasis on expanding cooperation to address the climate crisis, including discussions about enhancing the exchange of Earth observation satellite data and joint analysis of climate change risks.

In addition, the United States will work with the French space agency, CNES, on the Space Climate Observatory that will “sponsor projects that help make data from space accessible to local entities to inform decisions and measures to mitigate and respond to the climate crisis.”

The morning after their meeting, Harris told reporters that Macron also signaled his intent to sign the Artemis Accords. To date, 13 countries have signed. The original eight signed on October 13, 2020: Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Since then, five more joined: Brazil, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea, and Ukraine.

The United States and France have a very long history of space cooperation in robotic and human spaceflight. Right now, France is one of the 11 European countries that participate in the International Space Station program through the European Space Agency (ESA). French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, part of  ESA’s astronaut corps, just returned from 199 days in space on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour on Monday night. The French company Arianespace also is getting ready to launch NASA’s $9 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) on an Ariane 5 rocket from its launch site in French Guiana next month. ESA is a partner in JWST and is providing the launch at no cost to NASA.


This article has been updated.

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