On May 31st New Zealand became the 11th country to sign the Artemis Accords, designed to bypass the Outer Space Treaty’s limitations on property rights in space.
The full list, according to the NASA press release, now includes Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and the United States.
China and Russia have both said they oppose the accords. That such European nations as Germany and France have not joined in suggests their governments have not yet decided what direction they wish to go. Since U.S. policy now requires partners in the Artemis program to sign the accords, one would think that Germany and France and the European Space Agency (ESA) would certainly sign.
They have not, however. Instead, ESA has been in negotiations with China on the subject of space cooperation. If it signs a deal with China it could then become very difficult for it to partner with the U.S.
We might therefore be seeing here the first signs of a true and permanent political split in the alliance between mainland Europe and the United States.
Note too that these political winds signal bad news for Orion. The spacecraft relies on the ESA’s service module for its in-space journeys. If Europe does not sign the accords and instead partners with China, the U.S. will then be faced with either abandoning Orion or finding someone else to build its service module. I suspect that with the coming of cheap, affordable, and efficient private spacecraft, Orion will then die.
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