Returning to the Lunar Surface
In a historic announcement, the United States plans to send astronauts to the moon for the first time in over 50 years. Vice President Harris revealed the ambitious plan, stating that the US will establish a lunar base camp and a station in lunar orbit. This endeavor will be done in collaboration with allies and partners, including the European Space Agency, Europe, Japan, and Canada.
Landing an International Astronaut
Emphasizing the role of international cooperation in the Artemis program, Vice President Harris announced that alongside American astronauts, an international representative will also land on the moon by the end of the decade. The specific country and astronaut were not mentioned, but closer to the missions, crew assignments will be determined.
Global Cooperation in Space
The US believes that China is preparing for moon missions, prompting the need for strategic planning and international partnerships. The establishment of the Artemis Accords in 2020 aimed to promote responsible behavior in space. Currently, 33 countries have signed the accords, and their representatives were expected to attend the National Space Council meeting in Washington.
Challenges and Collaboration
Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted the importance of collaboration in space endeavors, citing successful joint projects like the Webb Space Telescope. However, he acknowledged that new challenges have arisen from undisclosed countries. The Artemis Accords are viewed as a challenge to China’s International Lunar Research Station project, which seeks to establish a permanent moon base with the participation of Russia and Venezuela.
An Inclusive Approach
NASA has a long-standing tradition of including international astronauts on space missions. For the Artemis II mission, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen will join three US astronauts for a lunar flyby. The first lunar touchdown by astronauts in over 50 years is expected to occur by 2027. All 12 moonwalkers during NASA’s Apollo program were Americans, making the inclusion of international partners in the Artemis program a significant step forward.
Ensuring Safe Use of Space
During the National Space Council meeting, Vice President Harris also announced new policies aimed at ensuring the safe use of space. With the increasing involvement of private companies and countries, the US is addressing issues such as the climate crisis and the growing problem of space debris. All nations were urged to cease destructive testing, following Russia’s anti-satellite missile test that added over 1,500 potentially dangerous pieces of debris to Earth’s orbit.
The US Space Force, established four years ago, also celebrated its anniversary on the same day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.