Germany signs Artemis Accords, eyes peaceful space future

Germany became the 29th country to sign the Artemis Accords, strengthening its role in space exploration and expanding its partnership with the U.S.
Rizwan Choudhury
Germany is the 29th country to sign the Artemis Accords, which establish a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations participating in NASA’s Artemis program.
Germany is the 29th country to sign the Artemis Accords, which establish a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations participating in NASA’s Artemis program.

Source: NASA/Keegan Barber 

Germany appended its signature to the Artemis Accords on September 14, strengthening its role as one of Europe's foremost space powers while cementing its long-standing partnership with the United States in the pursuit of space exploration. The event was held at the German ambassador's residence in Washington D.C. and was graced by senior U.S. and German authorities.

The Artemis Accords, which prescribe a set of best practices for sustainable space exploration, now boast Germany as their 29th signatory. Walter Pelzer, Director General for the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), was the official representative signing the accords.

"Germany and the United States have been thriving partners in space endeavors for a considerable period," said Pelzer. "Our endorsement of the Artemis Accords serves to amplify this bilateral cooperation, particularly with a focus on the broader objectives of space exploration."

In a press release announcing the partnership, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson lauded the partnership, stating, "I am thrilled with Germany's participation. They have long been among NASA's most reliable and adept international collaborators, and today's signing amplifies their pivotal role in a future filled with unlimited space possibilities and earthly goodwill."

Notably, Germany had pledged a staggering 3.5 billion euros (equivalent to $3.7 billion) to the European Space Agency (ESA) during last November's ministerial summit, thereby overshadowing contributions from other member states. Among the six leading contributors to ESA—Germany, France, Italy, the UK, and Spain—five have now ratified the Artemis Accords.

As per SpaceNews, Mike Gold, Redwire Space's Chief Growth Officer and a past NASA official involved in shaping the Accords emphasized that the strength of the agreement stems from the varied yet united group of nations endorsing it. He noted that Germany's participation brings together the key contributors to the European Space Agency (ESA), sending a clear signal to the global community. This coalition, he stated, collectively advocates for a peaceful and flourishing future in space that can benefit all of humanity.

Though German officials have remained tight-lipped about why they opted to sign the Accords at this juncture, a statement from DLR clarified that the Accords “reaffirm” Germany’s adherence to the Outer Space Treaty and related international conventions. Critics of the Artemis Accords argue they serve as an operational blueprint for the Outer Space Treaty, articulating how its principles could be actualized.

"The Outer Space Treaty is a seminal text, as germane today as it was in 1967. The Artemis Accords, however, elevate it from mere ink to actionable strategy," noted Gold.

Furthermore, DLR disclosed that it remains steadfast in its support for the development of fresh, binding space treaties. This could include the touchy subject of exploiting space resources, which also features among the topics outlined in the Artemis Accords.

International Astronautical Congress

The announcement arrives on the heels of a planned gathering of Artemis Accords members at the forthcoming International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan, this October. The summit is slated to discuss advancements by working groups focused on lunar surface operations and is likely to encourage more fledgling space nations to adopt the accords.

The Artemis Accords reinforce and implement key obligations in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. They also strengthen the commitment by the United States and signatory nations to the Registration Convention, the Rescue and Return Agreement, as well as best practices and norms of responsible behavior NASA and its partners have supported, including the public release of scientific data.

In June, during his inaugural state visit of the week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inked the Artemis Accords, as confirmed by a White House press statement.

Historically, India has been a proponent of establishing a legally binding global treaty to oversee space activities and thwart its militarization. Although the nation has traditionally resisted forming substantial space policy alliances with either Russia or the United States, it has positioned itself as a balancing factor against geopolitical skirmishes. India has also pushed for international legal frameworks to regulate both civilian and military engagements in space.

More countries are expected to sign the Artemis Accords in the months and years ahead, as NASA continues to work with its international partners to establish a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space. Working with both new and existing partners adds new energy and capabilities to ensure the entire world can benefit from our journey of exploration and discovery.