Space Policy Online reports that NASA and the Canadian space agency have signed an agreement that includes, among others, a Canadian astronaut on the Artemis II mission, which is intended to take four astronauts around the moon by 2023. The Artemis II will precede the Artemis. III mission to land on the moon next year, though most believe the date is unrealistic.
Other parts of the agreement relate to the development and installation of a Canadian robot arm at the Lunar Gateway, the planned lunar transition station. A second Canadian astronaut is on his way to the Lunar Gateway.
The as yet unidentified Canadian astronaut will be the first non-American to orbit the low-Earth. The inclusion illustrates that Artemis is not your grandfather’s lunar reconnaissance program. The international aspects of the 21st century lunar eclipse have a long precedent. As early as 1984, when President Ronald Reagan announced the project that would eventually become the International Space Station, Canada, Japan, and the countries of Western Europe were included as partners. Later, President Bill Clinton introduced Russia as a partner for the space station.
The Apollo race to the moon was presented to prove America’s technological excellence over the Soviet Union. The program succeeds excellently in this goal. The Soviets never recovered from the humiliation.
The Artemis program has a similar but more subtle political purpose. By allowing astronauts to moon and soliciting international participation in the enterprise, the United States wants to establish itself as a world leader in space exploration. America also expects to gain a great deal of international benevolence by inviting other countries to participate in Artemis, which includes having their subjects walk on the moon with Americans.
Artemis will demonstrate to China, which also has lunar ambitions, that the country that landed men on the moon 50 years ago still has the need to do the same. Just like back then, the United States is the world leader in space exploration. Because of its relentless hostility to the United States and the rest of the Western world, China is by no means a candidate for a space exploration partnership.
The third goal of the Artemis international partnerships is to prevent the incoming Biden administration from canceling the project. By setting up international partners for Artemis, the Trump administration hopes to make a cancellation of the project by Biden impossible. Team Biden has made Trump’s withdrawal from international agreements, such as the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, a major problem. Given the rhetoric it would not look good if the future Biden were to break the agreements, including the Artemis agreements, which want to define what good behavior in space entails.
Jim BridenstineJames (Jim) Frederick Bridenstine NASA selects the next Artemis moonwalkers while SpaceX flies a Starship to break the sound barrier. Biden elects his secretary of defense MORE, the outgoing NASA administrator, proved his worth by negotiating the various Artemis agreements. His latest achievement, besides the Canadian agreement, was to persuade Brazil to join the growing list of countries that became part of the Artemis agreement.
Ironically, Senate Democrats’ trade committee slammed Bridenstine during his confirmation hearings, claiming that NASA needed a “astronaut” rather than a politician (he was a congressman at the time). Bridenstine won confirmation in each case. Since then, he has used his political skills to gain not only Artemis’ approval for a dual congress, but also international support.
Bridenstine has vowed to step down as NASA administrator as soon as Biden is sworn in as President of the United States. The decision is a tragedy because the former congressman and Naval pilot did so well in control of the space agency and even won his former critics. Whoever Team Biden prefers to replace Bridenstine, he or she must be someone with the skill and passion to bring Artemis home Kathy Lueders, the current head of NASA’s human spaceflight effort, which includes Artemis and the commercial crew program, comes to me on.
As for Bridenstine, he may be offered the post as a special envoy for space exploration, so he continues his diplomatic work to build the Artemis alliance to return to the moon.
Many astronauts from other countries will follow the first Canadian into deep space. They come from Europe, Asia and probably even the Middle East. America went to the moon alone 50 years ago, before the eyes of the world. This time she will lead the world back to the lunar surface and thus earn a lot of international influence and credibility.
Mark Whittington, who regularly writes about space and politics, has published a political study on space exploration entitled Why is it so difficult to go back to the moon? as well as “The Moon, Mars and Beyond. He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.” He is published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Hill, USA Today, the LA Times and the Washington Post, among others.