WASHINGTON – NASA Executive Director Jim Bridenstine plans to meet his international counterparts in Paris this week to discuss cooperation in the agency's lunar Artemis program, but adds that these discussions are still in their infancy .
Bridenstine will be in Paris for the 53rd Paris International Air Show, a major event in the aerospace industry calendar, but with only a modest presence in space. Mr Bridenstine, however, said at a press conference held on June 6 in Beijing that he should meet with officials from a number of other space agencies present.
"All space agency leaders from around the world will be here," he said at the information meeting, to provide an overview of the US pavilion at the show, which will open on June 17 . "We will have the opportunity to share ideas with them what our plans are, the direction we are going."
Bridenstine has long insisted that the agency's Artemis program to send humans back to the moon would include roles for international partners, especially for the Moongate. Canada has already committed to providing a robotic arm to the Gateway while the United States and Japan have agreed to cooperate in exploring the Moon during President Trump's visit to Japan in May.
Specific roles, beyond the Canadian robotic arm, are, however, less clear. The decision by the Trump administration in March to speed up the human landing calendar until 2024, thus postponing work on much of the doorway to more late in the decade, has also darkened international cooperation projects.
At the June 6 meeting, Bridenstine said NASA was continuing to develop the overall architecture of the Artemis program. "We continue to assess the interests and capabilities of each of our international partners and then make the right decision as to how they fit into the architecture," he said.
The return of 2024, he acknowledged, will have limited opportunities for international cooperation beyond existing agreements, such as the one concluded with the European Space Agency, which provides the service module of the Orion spacecraft. "Beyond that, the architecture is open and we want to make sure that if people are interested in joining the effort, they have the opportunity," he said.
"We are still in the early stages of assessing the interests of our international partners and their capabilities," he said. "This is what we are going to do here and continue the dialogues we have already started."
While Bridenstine said that "all the heads" of the international space agencies would be present, he then noted a significant absence: Dmitry Rogozin, head of Rocosmos, will not be there because of the sanctions stemming from his role of Deputy Prime Minister during the annexation of Russia. Crimea in 2014. These sanctions also prevented Rogozin from participating in the International Astronautical Congress in Germany in October 2018.
The organizers said that the US pavilion of the Paris Air Show would be the largest of all time, although it is dominated by aviation and other non-space companies. The space, however, will be one of the themes of the pavilion, marking the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing of Apollo 11.
Three Apollo astronauts will be present, including Al Worden, pilot of the Apollo 15 command module. "Jim has a great responsibility to bring us back to the moon," he told Bridenstine at the meeting.
Worden, like Bridenstine, emphasized the need for international cooperation in outer space. "I guarantee you that when we start thinking about going to Mars, it will probably be too big a job for America," he said. "It will be 10 times what Apollo has been. We are laying the groundwork for future cooperation. "