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Jennifer R. Littlejohn, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
September 16, 2022
Good afternoon, Everyone.
Thank you to the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs and to the International Astronautical Federation for co-organizing this workshop and for inviting me to speak today.
I am the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, or OES.
Our bureau, together with many other parts of the U.S. Government, works to advance international cooperation in the area of civil and commercial space.
The late Christa McAuliffe, who perished during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 had trained to become the first teacher in space. She was committed to the mission, to becoming an astronaut because, in her words “space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts.”
Space is indeed for everyone. In a technical sense – we know that the space age is benefiting all of humanity: Through space-based earth observation technology we understand our home planet better. Farmers in East Africa can better plan their crops. Governments in SE Asia can better monitor typhoons and tsunamis. Scientists can map deforestation in South America and monitor the climate crisis from space – benefiting everyone on the planet.
But space is for everyone in a deeper sense as well. Humanity dreams by gazing towards the stars. We better understand our limits and our potential when we contemplate the universe – and that is truly a universal human experience. The new frontier is space, and it’s for all of us not just some of us.
One week ago, Vice President Harris chaired the second National Space Council meeting of the Biden-Harris Administration.
In this meeting, she affirmed that space is a priority for this Administration.
It’s a priority because of the very fact that space is humanity’s final frontier. It’s an untapped, unclaimed resource that we all share and that can benefit all of us if we approach space exploration peacefully and sustainably.
Those ideals represent the driving ethos behind this Administration’s commitment to facilitating international collaboration to develop norms of behavior and best practices that promote peaceful and sustainable space exploration – there, I said it again – to address some of our planet’s most pressing problems, like climate change.
To wit, the State Department has long engaged in productive bilateral civil space dialogues to identify areas of collaboration with international partners.
We have a bilateral Comprehensive Dialogue on Space with Japan, which ensures a whole-of-government approach to space cooperation.
We’re beginning a Comprehensive Dialogue on Space with France as well.
And in just the coming weeks the United States is looking forward to dialogues with Singapore and Vietnam.
In each of these fora, we’re focusing on developing norms, guidelines, principles, and rules for promoting the long-term sustainability of the outer space environment.
We’re also promoting the responsible and sustainable use of space in multilateral fora.
As everyone here knows well, the primary forum for international cooperation in civil space remains the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOUS).
And one of our top priorities in this forum is to promote the safe and responsible use of outer space and, specifically, the implementation of the 21 Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities.
These non-legally binding, voluntary commitments to guide nations’ space activities and protect the outer space environment represent a monumental achievement of over a decade of work within the Committee.
Of course, as we’ve already established, outer space is no longer limited to the purview of a handful of government actors. So, we make a point of inviting private sector advisors from academia, NGOs, and the commercial space industry to serve on U.S. delegations.
Their participation is essential to capturing the dynamic and innovative nature of U.S. outer space activities.
Outside of COPUOUS, the United States is also working with our regional partners. As an example, we are part of the Quad Space Working Group – together with our Australian, Japanese, and Indian colleagues – which is focused on working in space to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including the climate crisis, marine conservation, and space sustainability.
And I can’t continue here without mentioning the Artemis program and the Artemis Accords. These efforts serve to inspire and guide the international community’s commitment to upholding and strengthening a rules-based international order. They present an opportunity for this generation to positively define the guidelines and principles that we use to guide our civil space exploration for generations to come.
NASA’s Artemis program is inspiring the world as it seeks to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and conduct a historic first crewed mission to Mars.
The Artemis program will soon launch a successful Artemis I mission, the first in a series of increasingly complex missions intended to be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration coalition in history.
Inspired by the Artemis program, in 2020, NASA and the State Department launched the Artemis Accords.
The Artemis Accords are a nonbinding, whole of government declaration of principles and rules, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to guide safe and transparent civil space exploration and promote peaceful cooperation in space exploration and scientific endeavors.
The Artemis Accords represent a bold vision for the future of space exploration. They advance bilateral and multilateral space cooperation between signatories, expanding our knowledge of the universe and benefiting the whole world.
The theme of this workshop is “Access to Space for All: Bridging the Space Divide,” an idea central to our work on the Artemis Accords because space belongs to all of us, not just some of us. As a leader in space exploration, the United States is strongly committed to ensuring the benefits of space are enjoyed by all people, no matter their background or where on earth they happen to live.
Artemis Accords signatories are a diverse set of nations with a variety of space capabilities and interests. In less than two years, we have gathered 21 like-minded nations spanning the globe that are committed to sustainable space exploration.
The United States invites all spacefaring nations to join the growing coalition of Artemis Accords signatories. Together, we are setting the standard for safe, peaceful, and transparent exploration of outer space.
And just as the United States is dedicated to responsible exploration of the universe with our international partners under the Artemis Accords, we are also collaborating with other nations in observing our own planet.
The United States continues to advance an array of programs of space-based observation, research, and analysis of the Earth’s surface, oceans, and atmosphere, with the goal of increasing the quality and safety of life on Earth.
Remote sensing satellites are revolutionizing our understanding of weather forecasting, disaster mitigation, agricultural productivity, epidemiological outbreaks, and, importantly, climate change.
Good science is helping us develop good policy: this enhanced understanding is driving new strategies to combat the global climate crisis.
In the United States, for example, Earth observations have helped wildfire-prone regions contain damage and mitigate loss of life from wildfires.
We are also exchanging data and resources internationally. After the January 2022 REPSOL oil spill outside the port of Callao in Lima, Peru, the U.S. provided satellite data to Peruvian responders to effectively map the extent and movement of the spill and mitigate damage. Following this incident, the United States finalized a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Peru to continue to advance this type of open data sharing and scientific collaboration.
Free, open access to data has made all of this possible. Through bilateral data sharing agreements and through multilateral organizations like the Group on Earth Observations, the United States is committed to making data and applications from our satellites openly discoverable, accessible, and usable to the public. We encourage our international partners to do the same.
This is another way we demonstrate our dedication to “Access to Space for All.” Earth observations transcend national boundaries, impacting every one of us. Sharing this data widely ensures we all learn and benefit from space science.
Bridging the space divide has never been more important. As we pursue new and extraordinary discoveries in space and face unprecedented, planet-wide challenges here on Earth, it is essential that we work together to advance smart science and policy.
The clock is ticking, and our time to address some of our planet’s most pressing issues is finite so let’s focus today on creating new opportunities through collaboration. The time is now.
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