NASA’s Bridenstine boosts international pitch for moon, Mars missions

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks Monday at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy of NASA

Oct. 22 (UPI) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine made his strongest pitch so far on Monday for other nations to collaborate on the U.S. Artemis mission to build a lunar station and eventually explore Mars.

“When we go to the moon, we want to take all of the partners we have on the International Space Station and we want to grow it,” Bridenstine said at an annual gathering of the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C.

“We need international partners. We can all do more when we work together than anyone of us can do if we go alone,” he said.

Bridenstine laid out a vision of international cooperation, with a key ingredient being open sharing of all plans related to the lunar gateway — a proposed command module that would obit the moon permanently. He spoke on a panel that included the heads of space agencies for Europe, Japan, India, Russia and Canada.

“The way we do environmental control and life support, the way we do avionics and docking, the way we do data and communication. All of these things are gonna be open to the public, available online,” he said.

That would allow nations and commercial enterprises that normally could not afford a moon mission to piggyback on the international architecture for lunar surface missions or even deep space science, he said.

Johann-Dietrich Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency, also said getting international cooperation for the next phase of space exploration is key to success.

“We are trying to convince our partners to go to Mars,” he said. “It’s the most difficult part to convince ministers to pay for it, because it’s not a direct return on investment.” He said the argument to make is that the benefits are great, in terms of scientific discovery, monitoring and combating climate change, and protecting the planet’s satellite networks.

Bridenstine pointed out that 15 nations are partners in the operation of the International Space Station, which is nearing its 20th anniversary. Four more nations have sent astronauts to the station without formal participation in the operating partnership, while a total of 103 nations have done science experiments on board, he said.

Japan recently announced that it will build an international habitat module for the lunar gateway, while Canada previously said it would build another robotic arm — known as a Canadarm — that was used for the space shuttle and is currently used at the International Space Station.

“The gateway is an enabler, it’s a critical enabler for international partners and for commercial partners,” Bridenstine said.

He and others said they believe the current operating agreement that governs the space station should be expanded to the lunar gateway, since creating a new one for the moon missions could create delays.

Sergey Krikalev, Russia’s executive director for piloted spaceflights, pointed out that an Outer Space Treaty signed by spacefaring nations dates to the 1960s. That treaty limits the use of the moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes and says any nation may explore them.

“This new venture that we’re engaging in is hopefully going to get us into new areas, in terms of how humankind regulates itself,” said Sylvain Laporte, president of the Canadian Space Agency.


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