Greece just became the 35th country, and the 12th member of the European Space Agency, to sign the U.S.-led Artemis Accords. The Accords are a set of non-binding principles for responsible behavior on the Moon. ESA is one of NASA’s partners in the Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon for long-term sustainable exploration and utilization.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Gerapetritis as he signed the Accords yesterday at the State Department during the fifth round of the U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue. Ionnis Daglis, president of the Hellenic Space Center, and NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy also participated.
In a statement, Nelson said the “U.S. and Greece are long-time partners and friends, and we are excited to expand this partnership in the cosmos. Together, we are shaping the future of cooperation in space for the Artemis Generation.”
Gerapetritis added that as “humanity embarks on a great adventure, returning to the Moon and preparing for traveling beyond the Moon, the Artemis Accords serve as a beacon of collaboration and cooperation among nations, paving the way for a sustainable and peaceful exploration of space.”
The State Department put the event into the broader context of “Greece as an indispensable partner and a key NATO Ally,” adding that “[u]nited by democratic values we are advancing our shared goals for peace and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean, Western Balkans, Black Sea region, and beyond.”
The Accords spell out 10 principles for how countries should work together on the Moon: 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.
ESA provides the Service Module for the Orion spacecraft that will take astronauts to lunar orbit. Artemis I, the uncrewed test flight of Orion and the Space Launch System rocket, successfully took place at the end of 2022. Artemis II, the first flight around the Moon with a crew, is currently scheduled for September 2025. The European Service Module (ESM) for that flight was delivered to NASA last summer.
ESA also is a partner in the Gateway space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a transfer point for astronauts traveling to and from the surface. ESA is providing the ESPRIT (European System Providing Refuelling Infrastructure and Telecommunication) module and, together with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), an international habitation module called I-Hab.
ESA secured three flight opportunities for European astronauts to travel to and work on Gateway as part of the agreement with NASA. Of ESA’s 22 member states, Greece is the 12th to sign the Accords, joining Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
ESA’s other member states are Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Switzerland.
ESA is a space agency, not a country, so cannot sign itself.
Canada and the United Arab Emirates also are partners in the Artemis program. Both were among the first set of eight signatories to the Artemis Accords. Canada is providing a next generation robotic arm for Gateway building on its experience with Canadarm for the space shuttle and Canadarm2 for the International Space Station. A Canadian astronaut is one of the four crew members for Artemis II. The UAE is building an airlock for the Gateway space station.
Any country is welcome to sign the Accords, whether or not they plan to participate in Artemis or have other spaceflight plans.