In an interview ahead of the announcement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the accords are “intended to create norms of behavior that all countries can agree to so that we can keep peace and prosperity moving forward in space and avoid any kind of confusion or ambiguity that can result in conflict.”
He said the accords, first announced in May, would build on the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bans the use of nuclear weapons in space and prohibits nations from laying sovereign claim to the moon or other celestial bodies.
“There is nothing in the Artemis Accords that isn’t enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty,” Bridenstine said. “It’s a forcing function to get nations to comply with the Outer Space Treaty.”
The seven nations that signed are the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and Italy. It’s a somewhat eclectic mix, with countries like Japan, that have long been partners on the International Space Station, joining others, such as Australia and the UAE, that have relatively new but up and coming space programs. Bridenstine said the event Tuesday was only the beginning and that other nations would soon be joining. Ultimately, he said, the U.S. would create “the biggest, most diverse coalition of nations ever in the exploration of the moon and beyond.”
Signing the accords would also be a requirement for any nation wishing to partner with the U.S. in its Artemis program to return astronauts to the surface of the moon. But not all nations have reacted favorably to the agreements, or the lunar plan.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, previously compared the accords to an invasion that would lead to another “Iraq or Afghanistan.” On Monday, during the International Astronautical Congress, a global space conference, he said Russia was not likely to participate in NASA’s moon mission, which he said was “too U.S.-centric.”
He said NASA’s approach to lunar exploration, which would use a station in orbit around the moon called the Gateway, differs from the cooperation between nations on the International Space Station.
“The most important thing here would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation that, which were used in order to fly ISS,” he said, speaking through a translator. “If we could get back to considering making these principles as the foundation of the program then Roscomos would also consider its participation.”
Bridenstine said “the Gateway uses the exact same international agreement, the IGA, that the International Space Station uses.” He added that NASA has “shared with with Roscosmos what we would like to do with the Gateway in terms of collaborating with them and seeing what they’re interested is, and we just haven’t heard back.”
By law, the United States is effectively barred from cooperating with China in space. But NASA officials said that even if Russia and China are not signatories, the accords would be successful because they would create a baseline for the world to follow.