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The future factions in space become clearer

Based on two stories yesterday, it appears that the future alliances between nations in space are now beginning to sort themselves out.

First there was the signing ceremony announcement of Columbia becoming the nineteenth nation to sign the Artemis Accords with the U.S. and the third Latin American country to do so.

The Artemis Accords were created by the Trump administration as an international treaty to bypass the restrictions on private property imposed by the Outer Space Treaty. By signing bilateral agreements with as many nations as possible, the U.S. thus creates a strong alliance able to protect those rights in space.

The full list of signatories so far: Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the Ukraine, and the United States.

In the second story, France and India — both of whom have so far resisted signing the Artemis Accords — announced their own bilateral agreement intended to strengthen their partnership across many fronts, from security to economic development to the Ukraine war. The agreement also included this paragraph on the subject of space:

Building on a great tradition of over 60 years of technical and scientific space cooperation, and in order to address the contemporary challenges that have arisen in space, in particular maintaining a secure access to space for all, India and France have agreed on setting up a bilateral strategic dialogue on space issues. It will bring together experts from space and defence agencies, administration and specialised ecosystem to discuss security and economic challenges in outer space, the norms and principles applicable to space as well as unveil new areas of cooperation. The two sides agreed to hold the first dialogue this year at the earliest.

Both countries have until recently had strong partnerships in space with Russia, and had wanted to continue those partnerships. Since Russia (and China) oppose the Artemis Accords, this put both France and India in a quandary. If they signed the accords in order to participate in the American Artemis project, future cooperation with Russia would end.

The Ukraine War has simplified this situation for both countries, since both have now broken off their partnerships with Russia because of its actions in that war. However, if either now signed the Artemis Accords it would block any possibility for any future space cooperation deal with Russia. This separate deal allows France and India to keep all their options open, and serves to strengthen both.

All told, these announcements gives us a hint at the future national factions in space:

First we have the American alliance, comprised of countries that have signed the accords and will partner in NASA’s Artemis project.

Second we have China and Russia, who have announced their own project to explore and colonize the Moon and beyond. This alliance will be led by China, which has a vibrant space program and is trying to encourage other nations to join it.

Third we have a new set of non-aligned nations, led apparently by France and India, who will work together on their own space projects while leaving their options open.

All this could of course change. India is still have discussions with the U.S. about Artemis, as is France. Moreover, their agreement now does not preclude either from joining Artemis later.

Of the other countries with significant holdings in space, Germany remains the biggest unknown. It has lost its close partnership with Russia because of the Ukraine War. It is also now trying to encourage private enterprise in space. One would think the Artemis Accords would be a good fit, but so far that government has made no moves to sign.

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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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  • James Street

    “China, which has a vibrant space program”

    I’m still wondering how long before China collapses. Centralized economies always collapse… but that said the Soviet Union lasted for decades. Lately China’s problems have been escalating to the point they’re like the juggler you keep tossing one more ball to. Of course their space program is their crown jewel so they’ll keep shoveling resources into that even as their people starve. Some of their problems off the top of my head:

    • All of Biden’s and our government’s economic policies are destroying America and our economy.
    • China, the world’s second largest economy, thinks it will thrive when they destroy the world’s largest economy the U.S.
    • China is a net importer of food (it can’t feed its people) and in an economic downturn their people face starvation.
    • 80% of China’s drinking water is polluted with serious stuff like chemicals, insecticides and heavy metals causing a water shortage.
    • Because of water pollution food grown in China has these toxins.
    • China’s housing market (which is where the Chinese people invest for security) is collapsing.
    • Beginning in 2015 the Chinese government has ramped up a xenophobic persecution of foreigners in China to the point many are fleeing China for their safety.
    • China’s stock market is actually doing better than America’s but their companies are not audited or required to adhere to an accounting standard so the whole economy is smoke and mirrors.
    • All of these problems are exacerbated by a centralized government and economy that can’t respond quickly to crisis.
    • I believe if there is a deepening economic downturn America will come out stronger because we’re America. The Chinese Communist Party may not recover.

  • David K

    India has really resisted being part of any space treaty so far. If they want to make their own space alliance together with France, they should go for it. China and Russia can do their own. Meanwhile under the Artemis accords there will be at least four space stations and several moon and mars missions, all under the same legal framework.

  • Starting to look a lot like the Cold War world.

  • GaryMike

    It would seem that the number of signatories to a cooperative agreement represents calculations about who is most likely to exploit space resources first, who is most likely to become insanely rich first, and without a signature no one is getting a proportional share of the profits.

    Remora Eels in Space.

  • Concerned

    James Street: from your keypad to God’s monitor.

  • GaryMike:

    Not so much remoras, as human nature. Indeed, the nature of biology. As the Arabs say: “Bet on the strong horse.” The idea is to be that strong horse. Can’t do that if you look for ways to weaken yourself.

  • Steven Carleton

    China under Chairman Xi will declare wherever it lands on the moon or mars as its sovereign territory.
    It has pitted itself against the west in a winner-take-all approach.
    There will be no detente or cooperation like the US had with the USSR/Russia on the ISS.

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