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International astronaut will be living on the Moon by decade’s end

An international astronaut will join US astronauts on the moon by decade’s end under an agreement announced by NASA and the White House.

 

Dec 21, 2023, updated Dec 21, 2023
epa10826314 An international astronaut will join the crew living on the Moon station by the end of the decade, NASA has announced.  EPA/ISRO

epa10826314 An international astronaut will join the crew living on the Moon station by the end of the decade, NASA has announced. EPA/ISRO

The news came as Vice-President Kamala Harris convened a meeting in Washington of the National Space Council, the third such gathering under the Biden administration.

There was no mention on Wednesday of who the international moonwalker might be or even what country would be represented.

A NASA spokeswoman later said crews would be assigned closer to the lunar-landing missions, and that no commitments had yet been made to another country.

NASA has included international astronauts on trips to space for decades.

Canadian Jeremy Hansen will fly around the moon a year or so from now with three US astronauts.

Another crew would actually land; it would be the first lunar touchdown by astronauts in more than a half-century.

That is not likely to occur before 2027, according to the US Government Accountability Office.

All 12 moonwalkers during NASA’s Apollo program of the 1960s and 1970s were US citizens.

The space agency’s new moon exploration program is named Artemis after Apollo’s mythological twin sister.

Including international partners “is not only sincerely appreciated, but it is urgently needed in the world today,” Hansen told the council.

NASA has long stressed the need for global co-operation in space, establishing the Artemis Accords along with the US State Department in 2020 to promote responsible behaviour not just at the moon but everywhere in space.

Representatives from all 33 countries that have signed the accords were expected at the space council’s meeting in Washington.

“We know from experience that collaboration on space delivers,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, citing the Webb Space Telescope, a US, European and Canadian effort.

Notably missing from the Artemis Accords: Russia and China, the only countries besides the US to launch their own citizens into orbit.

Russia is a partner with NASA in the International Space Station, along with Europe, Japan and Canada.

Even earlier in the 1990s, the Russian and US space agencies teamed up during the shuttle program to launch each other’s astronauts to Russia’s former orbiting Mir station.

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