Why is France’s signing of the Artemis Accords the most important so far

As Sciencepost reported a few days ago, France has officially signed the NASA Artemis agreements. The signature of our country, which is considered one of the pillars of space, brings the number of participating countries to twenty. However, it required persuasion.

When the Artemis Accords were introduced under the Trump administration in October 2020, only eight countries formally adhered, including the United States. Since then, I’ve felt some notable absences. Two of the world’s largest space superpowers, China and Russia, have not signed, and probably never will. Two other major space nations, France and Germany, did not join the ship. Finally, our country is now in the game.

Thus, France is today the most important signatory to the agreements so far. As a reminder, our country is already first contributor for the European Space Agency budget. The United States also has a long-standing partnership with the French Space Agency, and CNES. Finally, France plays a central role in the operation of the launch site and the missiles of the main European launch supplier, Arianespace.

It was necessary to put France on the same wavelength as us in the exploration of the moon and our other plans, because it is the dominant representative in Europe with GermanyIn particular, said Gabriel Sweeney, NASA’s senior policy advisor.

Legal ambiguity

If France takes time, it is because our leaders did not. Not completely convinced At first. The Artemis agreements are already based on the backbone of international space law: Outer Space Treaty It entered into force in 1967. Under this treaty, the signatories undertake to explore space peacefully, not to claim sovereignty over celestial bodies or to put weapons of mass destruction into orbit. However, this legal framework has always been somewhat vague, and therefore interpretable.

So the Artemis conventions go further by proposing more stringent standards. On the issue of the moon, the agreement defines, for example, “safe areas”. In detail, the country that will carry out the work in the lunar surface area will have to inform others. Therefore, the latter will not be able to interfere in this area. The conventions also call for the preservation of heritage sites, such as the landing sites of the Apollo missions.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Philip Baptiste, President of the National Center for Space Studies, sign the Artemis Agreements. Credits: NASA/Kegan Barber

Exploitation problem

Countries will also be able to extract materials from the Moon and then use these materials in lunar exploration efforts. It is this concept of the use of space resources that some, notably France, have viewed as contradicting the Outer Space Treaty’s instructions not to claim sovereignty over a celestial body.

France was one of the countries that clearly indicated that space resources were an issue for the international community to do Spend time and thinkGabriel Sweeney continues, France was afraid that this could turn into a real gold rush or that some of the disparities observed on Earth could also occur in space.“.

Officials from NASA and the United States government worked with the French Space Agency on the various concerns that were raised. In the end, everyone agreed. ” They were opened on need clarity On some issues related to the Conventions of ArtemisThe researcher continues. Now those doubts seem to have dissipated, and agreements have been given A master’s seal of approval from a once skeptical nation“.

The next big European invasion will be Germany, the second largest contributor to the European Space Agency. India, which is taking more and more space in the space sector, will also be a particularly welcome signatory.

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