The number of countries signing the U.S.-led Artemis Accords is now up to 40. Lithuania joined yesterday and Slovenia signed last month. The Accords are a set of non-binding principles of responsible behavior on the Moon. All countries are welcome to sign whether or not they have a space program or lunar aspirations.

Aušrinė Armonaitė, Lithuanian Minister of Economy and Innovation, signed the Accords in Vilnius yesterday in conjunction with Vilnius Space Days. U.S. Ambassador Kara McDonald was in attendance.

Aušrinė Armonaitė, Lithuanian Minister of Economy and Innovation, signs the Artemis Accords in the presence of United States Ambassador Kara C. McDonald at a ceremony in conjunction with Vilnius Space Days. Credit: Lithuanian Innovation Agency

In a statement, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said “Welcome to the Artemis Accords family, Lithuania,” noting the milestone of reaching 40 signatories in just four years.

“In just four years, a remarkable 40 countries have signed the Artemis Accords. Together, as a global coalition, we will explore the stars openly, responsibly, and in peace.” — Bill Nelson

The State Department heralded the event as illustrating how the U.S.-Lithuanian relationship is flourishing.

“The U.S.-Lithuania relationship has never been stronger.  From collaboration in security and defense, to partnerships in trade and investment, the relationship between our two countries continues to flourish across a wide range of areas. We extend that partnership into outer space, through the Artemis Accords.” – State Department

Slovenia’s State Secretary of the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport, Matevž Frangež, signed in Ljubljana, Slovenia on April 19 with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien in attendance. Also present were NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, who is of Slovenian descent, and his wife Rebecca Bresnik, NASA Associate General Counsel for International and Space Law.

Matevž Frangež, State Secretary, Ministry of Economy, Tourism, and Sport signs the Artemis Accords on behalf of Slovenia with NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik, Ambassador Jamie L. Harpootlian, Rebecca Bresnik, Associate General Counsel for International and Space Law, and Slovenian Ambassador to the United States Iztok Mirošič standing behind. Credit: State Department

The 40 nations that have signed so far represent a broad cross section of countries. They range from those with significant space capabilities like the United States, Canada, Japan and many of the members of the European Space Agency to those still in the earliest stages like Angola and Rwanda.

Source: NASA

The Accords were drafted by NASA and the State Department in coordination with seven other countries who became the original signatories in October 2020: Australia, Canada, Japan, Italy, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States.

Mike Gold, Redwire’s Chief Growth Officer, led development of the Artemis Accords when he was at NASA from 2019-2021.

Mike Gold was the lead NASA official in developing the Accords and is often called their “father.” Now at Redwire, he continues to be a cheerleader. He told SpacePolicyOnline.com today that the number and diversity of signatories is just what they hoped for.

“With 40 signatories, it’s safe to say that the dream of the Artemis Accords has been rapidly transformed into reality. We initially envisioned the Accords as a means to inspire a discussion of how humanity can safely, sustainably, and peacefully explore the Moon and Mars.  We wanted to influence that discussion to focus on such principles as transparency, interoperability, and avoiding harmful interference.  The number of countries that have adopted the Accords, as well as their diversity, is absolutely what we had hoped for.  Moreover, we’re getting closer to a majority of nations in the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space signing the Accords, which in less than four years is nothing short of extraordinary.” — Mike Gold

He added that “the Accords are setting a precedent that will impact all nations, leading to a more peaceful and prosperous future for humanity in space, even for those countries that haven’t signed.”

The Accords are grounded in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (OST). They are designed to guide international participation in the U.S.-led Artemis program for sustainable exploration and use of the Moon, but signatories may or may not be part of Artemis.

The 10 core principles are: peaceful purposes, transparency, interoperability, emergency assistance, registration of space objects, release of scientific data, preserving outer space heritage, space resources, deconfliction of space activities, and orbital debris. They only apply to governments, not the commercial sector, and only to civil activities, not national security.

Gold sees the Accords as a mechanism to implement the goals and objectives of the OST. “We need to ensure that the Outer Space Treaty isn’t just limited to words on a page, but is instead put into practice.”

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