While the State Department’s diplomatic efforts do not yet extend beyond our solar system, we engage every day in crucial space diplomacy. In the Office of Space Affairs, we are actively building connections with other spacefaring nations to advance humanity’s civil exploration and use of space in a safe, responsible, and peaceful manner. This week, from May 9-13, the State Department is marking the first–ever Space Diplomacy Week, an opportunity to share the work we do to facilitate peaceful exploration of space.
Under the leadership of Vice President Kamala Harris, who chairs the National Space Council, State Department officials foster international cooperation. For example, earlier this year, we held the Third U.S.-Vietnam Civil Space Dialogue, which focused on cooperation in space-based earth observation programs, including SERVIR-Mekong which uses satellite observation to help manage climate-related challenges such as disaster preparedness and response, water resource, and land management. Our space diplomats are preparing now to participate in the upcoming meeting of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to discuss matters ranging from space exploration and innovation to climate change.
A centerpiece of the United States’ civil space diplomacy is the Artemis Accords. Jointly led by the State Department and NASA, the Accords are a multilateral, non-binding declaration of principles and rules grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, setting the stage for safe and transparent civil space exploration, and promoting peaceful cooperation in space exploration and scientific endeavors. This framework is intended to increase the safety of operations, reduce uncertainty, and promote the sustainable and beneficial use of space for all of humanity.
Artemis Accords principles include committing to transparency, interoperability, sharing of scientific data, registration of space objects, mitigation of orbital debris including spacecraft disposal, and providing emergency assistance in space. By affirming these principles, Artemis Accords signatories ensure that their activities in space will be both responsible and sustainable – and that humanity’s exploration of space will benefit everyone, not just citizens of spacefaring nations.
By joining together under common principles, the Artemis signatories can accomplish astonishing things. NASA’s Artemis Program is currently working towards landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon as early as 2025 and conducting a historic first mission to Mars. The success of this program relies on a broad and diverse international space exploration coalition and an unprecedented level of global cooperation.
This week, the Artemis Accords family gained a new signatory. On Tuesday, May 10th, Vice President and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez signed the Artemis Accords on behalf of the Republic of Colombia, affirming her nation’s support for peaceful cooperation in space exploration. Colombia is the 19th nation to sign the accords, joining Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Space exploration has become a truly global effort. Through the Artemis Accords and other engagements, State Department space diplomats work to ensure it is conducted in a safe, responsible and transparent manner to benefit all humankind.
About the Author: Valda Vikmanis–Keller serves as the Director of the Office of Space Affairs in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.