From June 19th to 21st, representatives from 15 out of 25 signatory countries of the Artemis Accords, a declaration outlining the principles of international cooperation in celestial body exploration, particularly within NASA’s Artemis lunar program, gathered in Gdańsk. The three-day meeting was hosted and organized by the Polish Space Agency (POLSA).
“This is a significant honor for the Polish Space Agency and Poland. Despite our country having much less experience in space exploration compared to countries like the United States or France, the responsibility of organizing such a crucial event fell to us. However, it’s important to note that this is not a coincidence. It is a clear signal and recognition of Poland’s commitment to space activities, as well as evidence of the growing strength of our voice in international structures,” highlighted Prof. Grzegorz Wrochna, President of the Polish Space Agency.
The proceedings were inaugurated by Kamila Król, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.
Experts from various space agencies worked in two working groups during the Gdańsk meeting. The first group, the Emerging Space Actors Working Group, co-led by Poland and Brazil, aims to enhance international collaboration. Its focus is on devising ways to involve less experienced countries in space research and exploration, based on the principles and values set forth in the Artemis Accords.
“Several hours of discussions, brainstorming, and the exchange of best practices led to concrete proposals for solutions,” noted President G. Wrochna.
The second group, the Working Group on Mitigation and Avoidance of Interference to Promote Safety in Lunar Operations, co-chaired by NASA and the U.S. Department of State, tackled conflict resolution and ensuring safety during lunar activities.
The recommendations generated by both groups will be presented at the Heads of Agencies meeting during the 74th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Baku (October 2-6, 2023).
“These are dynamic times. NASA anticipates at least 22 missions to the Moon’s surface within the next four years, with half of them targeting the southern polar region. Given the significant number of planned missions and the potential challenges associated with their proximity, it is essential to establish and adhere to a code of conduct and principles,” emphasized President Wrochna.
The outcomes of the workshops include:
- Formulating recommendations for the Heads of Agencies meeting at this year’s International Astronautical Congress.
- Strengthening international cooperation among signatories.
- Exchanging experiences in developing the space sector.
- Identifying the need to coordinate the work of the Artemis Accords working groups with the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).
- Discussing potential threats arising from uncoordinated lunar missions and possible ways to mitigate them.
The organization of the workshops by POLSA in Gdańsk significantly raised Poland’s profile among the signatory states of the Artemis Accords. This was especially notable since, for many participants, it was their first visit to Poland.
The Artemis Accords declaration is designed to strengthen international cooperation within NASA’s lunar program, whose goal is to return humans to the Moon and explore its surface and the lunar vicinity. This initiative will prepare NASA and its partners for the next significant step in human space exploration – the exploration of Mars.
It is worth noting that the Artemis Accords expand and detail the principles laid out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which governs the activities of states in the exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies.
Currently, 25 countries are signatories of the Artemis Accords, including the USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Ukraine, the UAE, the UK, France, Singapore, Colombia, Mexico, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Romania, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Czech Republic, and Spain.
Poland joined the ranks of Artemis Accords signatories on October 26, 2021, during the 72nd International Astronautical Congress in Dubai. The signing was conducted by President of POLSA, Prof. Grzegorz Wrochna. As part of the Artemis program, the Polish space sector can provide research instruments, measurement equipment, robotics and control elements, with the assistance of artificial intelligence. During missions to the Lunar surface, there will be a particular need for the ability to search for, extract, and process local resources for the construction of lunar bases. This marks the beginnings of space mining, which could become a new Polish specialization. Polish universities have already started educating experts in this field.