Our diplomatic efforts span the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and everywhere in between. Our team in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) is working to conserve the ocean and promote sustainable and legal fishing. We are negotiating and implementing instruments to tackle climate change, end the scourge of plastic pollution, protect wildlife, and conserve the world’s forests and other critical habitats.
There is another vital diplomacy we perform on behalf of the American people that takes us a little farther out. Our team in the Office of Space Affairs is actively building connections with other spacefaring nations to advance humanity’s civil exploration and use of space in a safe, responsible, and peaceful manner.
On January 13, Secretary Blinken and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida signed the U.S.-Japan Space Cooperation Framework Agreement, the latest example of the growing cooperation among nations. In his remarks, Sec. Blinken noted the way space exploration is evolving since humanity first stepped on the Moon:
In the last century, the space race electrified the world – seizing the imaginations of millions of people, awed by the men and women who dared to go into the unknown. It inspired generations of scientists, researchers, innovators, dreamers. And it paved the way for countless technological advances – in computers, satellites, GPS, camera lenses, medical equipment, and so much more. And these advances have improved the daily lives of people across the planet.
Now, we’re entering a new chapter of space exploration. And our ambitions are no less soaring than in President Kennedy’s time, when he declared his commitment to “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth” within the decade. And our achievements, I believe, will be no less impressive, or important, for the benefit of humankind.
A centerpiece of the United States’ civil space diplomacy is the a multilateral, non-binding declaration of principles and proposed practices grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Jointly led by the State Department and NASA, the Accords set the stage for safe and transparent lunar exploration and promote peaceful cooperation in space exploration and scientific endeavors.
The 23 Artemis Accords signatories represent a diverse set of nations with a wide range of space capabilities and interests. Most recently, Nigeria and Rwanda became the first two African nations to sign the Artemis Accords last December.
This year is shaping up to be another important one for space diplomacy, where we will build on the progress and momentum of the past several years through such major initiatives as:
- Initiated in 2005, the United States and India Civil Space Joint Working Group is the venue for a productive exchange of views and discussion on new and expanded areas for civil space cooperation. The civil space dialogue between United States and India is framed around four working groups: Earth sciences, space science and exploration, heliophysics and human space flight. Last week, the Working Group reconvened for the first time since 2019, in Washington, DC.
- In March, our Japanese counterparts will host the Comprehensive Dialogue on Space in Tokyo. This Dialogue is the primary annual meeting that covers civilian, commercial, and national security cooperation in space between the United States and Japan. It is a vital mechanism for ensuring policy alignment between our countries across the full range of outer space -related issues. The last US-Japan Comprehensive Dialogue was held in August 2020.
- The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS), based in Vienna, serves as the primary multilateral forum for civil space issues. The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (STSC) will meet in Vienna from February 6-17. The STSC discusses issues of space sustainability, the use of nuclear power sources in space, near-earth objects, and a host of other topics that highlight the scientific and technical achievements in outer space and the pivotal role of international cooperation in advancing these efforts.
- The United States is committed to advancing the work of the UN COPUOS Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities working group, which promotes the responsible use of space through implementation of voluntary guidelines that address the sharing of information, facilitating capacity building, and enhancing spaceflight safety. The United States is also looking forward to ongoing discussions on the “Dark and Quiet Skies” agenda item, which is a multi-stakeholder discussion on balancing the observation needs of astronomers with the continued development of satellite constellations providing numerous benefits to consumers.
International space collaboration can achieve marvelous things. In just the last two years, it put a rover on Mars and launched the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful space telescope ever. Working with other countries, we will soon make similar incredible discoveries, as we prepare to send a probe to the moons of Jupiter, explore the South pole of our Moon, and more.
The Artemis program – and our space diplomacy – shows the best of both American ingenuity and our determination to build bridges of cooperation with other nations and to inspire the next generation to keep going where no one has gone before.