But what are we going to do on the moon? On Tuesday, France became the 20th country to join New wave of space exploration Quiet. By signing “Artemis Agreement”, He joins NASA’s U.S. program of the same name, which plans to fly to the moon in the next two or three years. The ultimate goals are to establish a sustainable human presence there, to create “safety zones” to protect extraterrestrial resources, or to create a springboard station for long-haul aircraft.
Francis Rogart, head of solar exploration projects at the National Center for Space Research (CNES), explains. 20 minutes France’s role in this great space adventure.
Why does France want to be a part of this project?
Unlike the American Apollo missions that took place nearly fifty years ago, the Artemis missions offer a variety of collaborative opportunities. “Participation in the Artemis project is part of a larger international and ambitious program, which means giving ourselves the opportunity to send an astronaut to the moon through the European Space Agency (ESA),” says Francis Rogart, “because without NASA, there would be no way to make such a trip to France or Europe alone.” The expert promises no.
Do we really need it?
After joining countries like Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Israel, United Arab Emirates and Brazil, France joins the Artemis program… it already has a lot of people. But thanks to its knowledge, France, through the European Space Agency, should contribute directly to this project. The Esprit module, for example, brings communication tools and materials to the lunar gateway, a station in lunar orbit. AFP Pascale Ultré-Guérard, deputy director of strategic projects at CNES, said the module should be designed by Thales Alenia Space in France.
“The European Space Agency is also engaged in the delivery of transport modules called ESM, which will carry astronauts to the moon on each mission,” says Francis Rogart. However, the latter parts can be manufactured by larger manufacturers such as Thales or Airbus in France.
Are French astronauts being sent?
“All contributions from the European Space Agency will ultimately allow a European astronaut to legally claim the right to send to the moon. This is part of the deal,” explains the head of the National Center for Space Research.
Last January, Thomas Baskett, returning from the International Space Station, promised that the moon would be “the next step”. “The current dynamic, the location of France, the location of Europe, is not impossible. So I will do everything I can to do this, and I will cross my fingers very strongly,” he said on BFMTV’s package. One hope is still valid. He said he was “in good shape” to take part in lunar missions.
How much will it cost France?
As usual, signing contracts are usually commitments to provide paid services, while Artemis contracts are slightly different. “These are agreements in principle, not a direct question of money, which Francis Rogard urges. The signatories, for example, come forward to help a group in distress.”
What is France’s position on “safe areas”?
In the Artemis deal, one move is controversial. As we said above, it offers the possibility of defining “protection zones”, especially to protect against the exploitation of resources such as moon water. The 1967 agreement prohibits the “national allocation” of these resources.
In this case, there has been some debate in France. Pascale Ultré-Guérard told AFP to conclude that “according to our analysis, the Artemis agreements are not contrary to the 1967 agreement”. “France signed up because the exploitation of extraterrestrial resources does not mean the acquisition of extraterrestrial bodies. It is like the international waters on Earth. They belong to everyone, but we have the right to fish there. Clearly, the moon can exploit its resources for a common good.