Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon
Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico’s secretary of foreign relations, announced Dec. 9 that Mexico was signing the Artemis Accords. Credit: Mexico Secretary of Foreign Relations

WASHINGTON — The government of Mexico announced Dec. 9 that it is signing the U.S.-led Artemis Accords outlining best practices for space exploration.

Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico’s secretary of foreign relations, announced that Mexico would become the fourteenth country to sign the Artemis Accords, a document addressing various issues regarding safe and sustainable space exploration, many of which are directly tied to the Outer Space Treaty and other international accords.

In a statement, Ebrard said Mexico looked forward to participating in NASA’s Artemis program of lunar exploration, but did not disclose details regarding the role he thought the country would play in the effort. He said that, during the Apollo program a half century ago, “we were spectators, now we are going to be participants. It is a great step for Mexico.”

Ebrard announced Mexico’s accession to the accords at an event attended by several other Mexican government officials as well as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar and José Hernández, a former NASA astronaut. Hernández said in the statement that Mexico’s decision to join the Artemis Accords was evidence that, for this return to the moon, “we are going to do it as a community.”

“As highlighted at our inaugural National Space Council meeting, the Artemis Accords establishes clear norms for civil space exploration,” Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted Dec. 9. “We welcome Mexico’s decision to join the Artemis Accords and conduct space exploration responsibly and sustainably.

“We welcome Mexico’s leadership in signing the Accords and working with us to explore space responsibly for the benefit of all,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

At the Dec. 1 National Space Council meeting, Harris described the Artemis Accords as one mechanism for developing norms and rules of behavior in space, a priority for the administration. “From here, we must work to expand the number of signatories on the Artemis Accords,” she said, mentioning that both France and Mexico had expressed an interest in joining the accords.

NASA announced the Artemis Accords in October 2020 with an initial group of eight signatories. Five others later joined before Mexico, most recently Poland Oct. 26. The countries who have signed include both traditional partners of the United States in space, such as Canada, Japan and several European nations, as well as emerging space nations like Brazil, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

“They’re relatively simple but they’re an important start,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said of the Artemis Accords during a Dec. 9 panel discussion at The Global Boardroom online conference organized by the Financial Times. They’re intended, she noted, to avoid some of the issues encountered during spaceflight in Earth orbit, like congested orbits and creation of debris.

“As we push out into the solar system, we’re going to try to get ahead of that,” she said. “We’re trying to think a couple chess moves ahead because we’re not in a good place right now.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...