As reported by Sciencepost a few days ago, France has officially signed the NASA Artemis agreements. The signing of our country, considered one of the pillars of aerospace, brings the number of countries involved to twenty. However, it took convincing.
When the Artemis agreements were introduced under the Trump administration in October 2020, only eight countries officially committed, including the United States. From that moment on, some notable absences made themselves felt. In fact, two of the largest space superpowers in the world, China and Russia, have not signed and probably never will. Two other large space nations, France and Germany, were also not on board. Finally our country is now at stake.
France is therefore today considered the most important signatory of the Agreements to date. Recall that our country is really the first collaborator to the budget of the European Space Agency. The United States also has a longstanding partnership with the French space agency, the CNES. Finally, France plays a central role in the operation of the launch site and rockets of Europe’s leading launch provider, Arian space.
” It was essential to put France on our same wavelength for our lunar exploration and other plans, because it is the dominant player in Europe with Germany.“Said Gabriel Swiney, NASA’s senior policy advisor, in particular.
If France took time, it was because our leaders weren’t not entirely convinced at the beginning. The Artemis Agreements are in fact based on the backbone of international space law: the Treatise on Outer Space entered into force in 1967. Under this treaty, the signatories undertake to peacefully explore space, not to claim sovereignty over celestial objects or to put weapons of mass destruction into orbit. However, this legal framework has always been somewhat vague and therefore open to interpretation.
The Artemis agreements therefore go further by proposing more rigid standards. On the lunar question, the agreement includes, for example, “safety zones”. In detail, a country that will carry out works in a region of the lunar surface will have to inform the others. Therefore, the latter will not be able to interfere in this sector. The agreements also provide for the conservation of heritage sites, such as the landing sites of the Apollo missions.
The problem of exploitation
Countries will also be able to mine materials from the Moon and then use those materials in their lunar exploration efforts. It is this concept of the use of space resources that has been considered by some, and particularly France, to conflict with the Outer Space Treaty’s instruction not to claim sovereignty over a celestial object.
” France was one of the countries to clearly indicate that space resources were a problem the international community really owed spend time and reflect” continues Gabriel Swiney ” France feared that this could turn into a true gold rush or that some of the inequalities observed on Earth could also occur in space.“.
Officials from NASA and the United States government collaborated with the French space agency on various concerns raised. In the end everyone agreed. ” They were opened on need for clarity on some issues with the Artemis Accords“, continues the researcher” Now it seems that those doubts have been dispelled, giving the agreements an important seal of approval from a once skeptical nation“.
The next major European achievement would be Germany, the second largest contributor to ESA. India, which is occupying more and more space in the space sector, would also be a particularly welcome signatory.