But what are we going to do on the moon? On Tuesday, France became the 20th country to join A new wave of space exploration security. by signing “Artemis Agreement”, joins the US NASA program of the same name, which plans to travel to the moon in the next two or three years. The ultimate goals are to establish a permanent human presence there, create “safety zones” to protect extraterrestrial resources, or even build a staging post for remote manned flights.
Francis Rocard, Head of Solar System Exploration Programs at the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) explains 20 minutes What role will France play in this fantastic space adventure?
Why does France want to be part of this programme?
Unlike the American Apollo missions, which were carried out nearly fifty years ago, the Artemis missions offer diverse prospects for cooperation. “Participation in the Artemis program means being part of a large and ambitious international project. It also means giving ourselves, through the European Space Agency (ESA), the possibility of eventually sending an astronaut to the moon,” emphasizes Francis Rocard. Because without NASA, neither France nor Europe has the means to make such an expedition alone, the expert asserts.
Do we really need us?
France joins the Artémis program after Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and even Brazil… That’s already a lot of people. But thanks to its experience, France, through the European Space Agency, should contribute directly to this programme. This would be the case, for example, with the Esprit module, which will bring communication tools and supplies to the Lunar Gateway, the station in lunar orbit. Thales Alenia Space should design this module in France, says Pascal Olter Girard, deputy director of programs in the strategy department at the French National Center for Space Studies.
“The European Space Agency has also pledged to provide transport modules called ESM, which will transport astronauts to the Moon on each flight,” Francis Rocard adds. However, parts of the latter can be manufactured by major manufacturers such as Thales or Airbus, whose centers are located in France.
Will French astronauts be sent?
“All of the ESA’s contributions allow it to legitimately claim to send a European astronaut to the Moon. It is part of the deal,” explains the head of the National Center for Space Studies. And if nothing is fixed at the moment, some have already positioned themselves.
Last January, Thomas Pesquet, barely returning from the International Space Station, confirmed that the Moon was “the next step.” With the current dynamic, the place of France, the place of Europe, this is not impossible. So I will do everything in my power to make it happen, tying my fingers tightly,” he told BFMTV. The optimism remains. At the end of May, the astronaut claimed that he was “in good shape” to participate in the Artemis lunar flights.
How much will France cost?
If it is customary, then the signatures of agreements are generally commitments to provide paid services, Artémis agreements are a little different. “These are agreements in principle, where it is not directly related to money, says Francis Rocard. The signatory states, for example, undertake to help the crew in difficulty. »
What is France’s position on “safe zones”?
In the Artemis Agreement, there is one controversial procedure. It provides, as we said above, the possibility of defining “safety zones”, in particular in order to protect the exploitation of resources, such as water on the surface of the Moon. Except that the 1967 treaty prohibits any “national appropriation” of these resources.
On this subject, there have been quite a few discussions in France. “The Artemis agreements, according to our analysis, do not contradict the 1967 treaty,” Pascal Olter Girard told AFP. “France has signed because it agrees with the fact that the exploitation of extraterrestrial resources does not mean the appropriation of the planetary body, according to Francis Rocard. It is a bit like international waters on Earth. They belong to everyone, but we have the right to fish there. It is clear that the moon It is a public good whose resources can be exploited.
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