WASHINGTON — Switzerland formally signed the Artemis Accords April 15, becoming the latest nation to join an agreement about sustainable space exploration.

In a ceremony at NASA Headquarters, Swiss Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, the country’s minister for economic affairs, education and research, signed the accords alongside NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and officials from both countries.

“The Artemis Accords constitute a leap forward in space cooperation,” Parmelin said in remarks at the signing event. “Switzerland’s signing of the Artemis Accords underscores our commitment to this ambition and our belief that cooperation to creating an improved framework for our space community.”

Both Parmelin and Nelson noted that cooperation between Switzerland and the United States in space dates back to Apollo 11, when one of the first instruments deployed by astronauts after landing on the lunar surface was a solar wind experiment from the University of Bern in Switzerland.

In comments after the event, Nelson noted Switzerland’s famed neutrality made its signing of the Artemis Accords significant. “It is all the more important that Switzerland would join a declaration of principles of the peaceful uses of space,” he said.

Switzerland is also one of the founding members of the European Space Agency. Switzerland is the 13th full member of ESA, out of 22 countries, to join the accords, and the 37th country overall.

Parmelin said after the signing ceremony that Switzerland had been interested in signing the accords for some time, but noted that lengthy internal processes within the government meant that only now was the country ready to formally join.

“I think we have a lot to bring” in cooperation with the United States in space, he said, “but we are highly specialized.”

Both Parmelin and Martina Hirayama, Switzerland’s state secretary for education, research and innovation, noted at the signing ceremony that the government adopted a new space policy last year and is working on the country’s first national space act.

Hirayama said the policy focuses on the benefits provided by space as well as technology development. “The Swiss space policy also recognizes that these ambitions can only be fulfilled in close cooperation with our partners in Europe and beyond,” she said.

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...