WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — When NASA sends the first woman and next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis program, it won’t be going alone. The agency will be leveraging support from commercial partners and the international community as it establishes a sustainable presence on the lunar surface by 2028, paving the way for human missions to Mars.
Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in Washington Oct. 21-25, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine reaffirmed America’s commitment to working with international partners on NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.
“I think there’s lots of room on the Moon and we need all of our international partners to go with us to the Moon,” Bridenstine said during the Heads of Agencies news conference on Oct. 21. “That’s the vision. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. If we can come to agreements on the contributions of all the nations and how they’re going to be a part of the architecture then certainly I would see that there is no reason why we can’t have all of our international partners with us on the Moon.”
Earlier this year, the governments of Canada, Australia, and Japan committed to partnering with NASA on space exploration through the Artemis program. Building on this momentum, NASA secured pledges of interest from several space agencies during IAC. Over the course of the week, Bridenstine signed joint statements with counterparts including Dr. Marc Serres, chief executive officer of the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA); Giorgio Saccoccia, head of the Italian Space Agency (ASI); and Michał Szaniawski, president of the Polish Space Agency (POLSA).
In addition to acknowledging the strong ongoing collaboration between the agencies, the joint statements identify areas of potential future cooperation on and around the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. For LSA, this includes an emphasis on advancing commercial opportunities; for ASI the statement acknowledges Italy’s industrial aerospace expertise and the potential for cooperation through agency and industrial partnerships; and for POLSA it includes an emphasis on sustainable activities around and on the Moon.
On a broader scale, Bridenstine convened a meeting of senior leaders from 25 international space agencies to discuss the future of human exploration, during which NASA presented its vision and plans for Artemis and future missions to Mars. Participants from around the world expressed their interest in NASA’s plans and highlighted the capabilities that their respective agencies might be able to contribute to support the initiative.
Bridenstine also hosted a meeting with Karen Andrews, a member of the Australian Parliament and minister for industry, science, and technology, to discuss opportunities for Artemis collaboration in light of her country’s recent announcement of a three-fold increase in funding for Australian space exploration activities.
In a meeting ESA (European Space Agency) director general Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Bridenstine, along with other NASA officials, sought to solidify European support for Artemis, discussing topics such as the significance of Europe’s human exploration plans and support for the upcoming ESA ministerial council meeting. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science, also met with David Parker, ESA’s director of human and robotic exploration, and signed a joint statement welcoming the Lunar Pathfinder mission, ESA’s first Moon partnership with European industry, strengthening NASA-ESA collaboration and paving the way for future lunar exploration.
Bridenstine also met with Thomas Jarzombek, federal government coordinator of German aerospace policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The meeting focused on German support for NASA-ESA collaboration on the International Space Station, European service modules and the lunar Gateway. In a meeting with Professor Pascale Ehrenfreund, head of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Bridenstine discussed ongoing and future cooperation in aeronautics and science. The two also talked about potential DLR contributions to the Artemis program bilaterally and through ESA, and noted the critical importance of the European Service Modules for Orion, which are being developed in Germany.
In a meeting with Jean-Yves Le Gall of France’s space agency, the Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), Bridenstine discussed French support for bilateral and European cooperation in human and robotic exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Building on a longstanding partnership between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Bridenstine discussed Canada’s commitment to the lunar Gateway with CSA president Sylvain Laporte and senior Canadian officials. Canada was the first international partner to commit to the Gateway, and CSA has been coordinating with NASA on plans to provide external robotics.
IAC also gave NASA the opportunity to meet with counterparts from space agencies in the Middle East. In a meeting with Israel Space Agency (ISA) director Avigdor Blasberger, Bridenstine discussed areas of mutual cooperation and future exploration plans. ISA and a commercial company, StemRad, are collaborating with DLR, NASA, and Lockheed Martin on the Matroshka AstroRad Radiation Experiment (MARE), which will fly on NASA’s Artemis I mission. MARE will demonstrate technology developed by StemRad to record radiation levels to which astronauts may be exposed to during a lunar mission.
Representatives from the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, which recently sent its first astronaut to the International Space Station, also met with Bridenstine to discuss opportunities for additional human spaceflight cooperation with the United States, as well as commercial industry activity in low-Earth orbit.The series of meetings and agreements that took place during IAC demonstrate how nations throughout the world are enthusiastic about NASA’s plans for human missions to the Moon and, ultimately, to Mars. In addition to identifying opportunities for other nations to participate in Artemis, NASA is committed to participating in other nations’ science missions, and leveraging their skills and interests to conduct scientific research, develop and demonstrate technology, and train international crews to operate farther from Earth for longer periods of time than ever before.