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Signing of the Artemis Accords: German astronauts Alexander Gerst and Matthias Maurer take a selfie with NASA chief Bill Nelson (center)

Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa

In order to become more involved in the further exploration of the Moon and Mars, which is currently being planned, especially by the USA, Germany has joined the international Artemis initiative. The Director General of the German Space Agency at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Walther Pelzer, signed the agreement on Thursday evening (local time) at the German Embassy in Washington. Germany wants to become part of an "important chapter in space history", DLR explained.

The Artemis Accords set out principles for cooperation in space. They also provide a framework for peaceful use of Mars and the Moon, as well as comets and asteroids. With the accession of Germany, the initiative led by the United States now includes 29 states, including some European countries such as France and Italy.

Pelzer emphasized that Germany and the United States have been "successful partners in space travel for a long time." For example, German companies from the space industry are already making "a central contribution to NASA's Artemis program" for renewed moon landings. The Artemis Accords offer "a wealth of new opportunities for industry and scientific research in Germany – and ultimately throughout Europe".

NASA chief Bill Nelson said Germany has "long been one of NASA's closest and most capable international partners." The signing of the Artemis Accords shows "that Germany plays a leading role now and in the future – a future that is characterized by limitless possibilities in space and the promise of goodwill here on Earth."

Demand for UN rules

NASA had agreed on the Artemis Accords 2020 with seven other founding states. According to DLR, they "lay the political foundation for the peaceful, responsible and sustainable exploration of space within the framework of the Artemis programme". For example, the agreement reaffirms a comprehensive multilateral approach to space and the importance of international rules and regulations in space, for example through the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

Critics accuse the U.S. of wanting to cement its dominance in space with the Artemis Accords and have a decisive influence on how the Moon and Mars are used. Therefore, there are calls to establish international rules for space travel under the umbrella of the UN.

Artemis is also the name of NASA's lunar mission planned for the coming years. The U.S. space agency is planning a manned moon landing in 2025 with the help of Elon Musk's space company SpaceX. However, due to technical problems, the appointment may have to be postponed.

With its Artemis 3 mission, NASA wants to bring U.S. astronauts to the moon for the first time in half a century, including a woman and an African-American for the first time. In the long term, NASA's lunar missions are intended to prepare for the journey towards Mars.