In a landmark announcement, Vice President Kamala Harris declared on Wednesday that the United States plans to send an international astronaut to the moon alongside American crew members within this decade. This revelation was made during the third session of the U.S. National Space Council under the current administration, highlighting the Artemis program’s key role in pioneering space exploration efforts.
Vice President Harris emphasized the significance of global collaboration in these endeavors, pointing out that the Artemis program is not just a U.S. mission but a collective effort involving contributions from the European Space Agency, Japan, and Canada. These contributions are pivotal in the program’s aim to establish the first lunar base camp and a station in lunar orbit.
Harris proudly shared the ambitious plan to include an international astronaut in the upcoming lunar landing mission, marking a significant step in space exploration history. While specifics regarding the astronaut’s nationality were not disclosed, NASA representatives indicated that crew assignments would be made as the lunar-landing missions draw nearer.
This move comes amidst growing concerns about China’s potential military preparations in space. The U.S. has been vocal about the necessity of international cooperation in space exploration, leading to the establishment of the Artemis Accords in 2020. These accords, formed alongside the U.S. State Department, aim to foster responsible behavior in space, not just on the moon but across the cosmos. The Artemis Accords have been signed by 33 countries, all of whom were expected to attend the space council’s meeting in Washington.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken underscored the importance of collaboration, referencing the success of the Webb Space Telescope, a joint effort involving the U.S., Europe, and Canada. He also acknowledged new challenges posed by strategic competitors, without naming specific nations.
The Artemis program, named after the mythological twin sister of Apollo, symbolizes a new era in lunar exploration. It counters China’s International Lunar Research Station project, which also aims to establish a permanent lunar base with the collaboration of various nations, including Russia and Venezuela.
The U.S. has a history of including international astronauts in space missions. Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen is scheduled to orbit the moon in the upcoming Artemis II mission, accompanied by three U.S. astronauts. This mission precedes the first lunar landing by astronauts since the Apollo program, expected no earlier than 2027.
The announcement coincided with the fourth anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. Space Force, a significant milestone as the first new branch of the armed services since 1947. The inclusion of international partners in the Artemis program underscores a unified approach to exploring and understanding space, an endeavor deemed essential in today’s world.