- Status Report
- Jan 27, 2023
NASA OIG Report: NASA’s Partnerships with International Space Agencies for the Artemis Campaign
WE PERFORMED THIS AUDIT
NASA’s Artemis campaign is working toward landing humans on the Moon in 2025 with the ultimate goal of crewed missions to Mars in the 2030s. Additional objectives include biannual robotic and scientific missions to the lunar surface, establishment of an orbiting lunar outpost known as Gateway, and development of a base camp with lunar rovers on the Moon.
Achieving these ambitious objectives is both technically challenging and enormously expensive, with NASA’s financial contributions to Artemis projected to cost $93 billion between fiscal years 2012 and 2025. Consequently, NASA officials have stated that partnerships with international space agencies are critical to achieving a robust and sustainable presence on the Moon as a precursor to a human mission to Mars. At the same time the Artemis Accords—signed by 23 countries over the last 2 years—illustrate wide international interest in space exploration as they seek to establish principles for cooperation among civil space agencies and governance on the use of outer space to increase the safety of operations, reduce uncertainty, and promote its sustainable and beneficial use for peaceful purposes.
Key early Artemis commitments from the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency (ESA), and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) include the provision of a Gateway habitat, communications satellites, spacecraft service modules, external robotics, astronauts, and lunar rovers. ESA has explored establishing a permanent Moon base, while JAXA is examining upgrades to its logistics vehicle used to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). While NASA is leaning into its deep experience over the past 30 years working with a variety of international partners on the ISS by establishing long-term Artemis commitments from many of these same partners, international cooperation for Artemis may be hindered by fluctuating political guidance, uncertain budgets, and restrictive policies concerning the control of mission-related information both in the United States and abroad.
In this audit we evaluated (1) NASA’s plans to coordinate and integrate international partner contributions with its Artemis efforts, (2) impediments NASA faces when partnering with international space agencies, and (3) the cost implications of working with partner space agencies. To complete this work, we interviewed NASA and U.S. Departments of State and Defense officials, conducted site visits at ESA and JAXA locations in the Netherlands and Japan, and surveyed seven international space agencies. We reviewed relevant Artemis and Moon to Mars documents; international partner agreements; agreement processing metrics; export control laws; and NASA budget, contract, and cost data. We also engaged The Aerospace Corporation to analyze the cost, schedule, and complexity of domestic and international uncrewed, robotic, and human space flight projects.
WHAT WE FOUND
Interest in the Artemis campaign is high across the international space community, as evidenced by NASA’s 54 Artemis- related international instruments and the 23 signatories to the Artemis Accords. However, the Agency lacks an overarching strategy to coordinate Artemis contributions from international space agencies and entities. Except for the Gateway Program, the Artemis campaign does not have comprehensive forums—boards, panels, and working groups— for its international partners to routinely discuss topics such as flight and mission planning, safety, and research integration. In contrast, the ISS Program–seen as a model of long-term international space cooperation–employs these forums as well as on-site representation from partner agencies. While the architecture or blueprint for the first three Artemis missions is well established, NASA lacks an overall architecture beyond Artemis IV for lunar exploration of the Moon that includes estimated costs to be borne and responsibilities assumed by its international partners. In May 2022, NASA took steps to develop such an architecture that would inform a “blueprint for sustained human presence throughout the solar system,” but it is too early to tell if these efforts will clarify the potential funding, roles, and responsibilities required of international partners for participation in the Artemis campaign. Additionally, current Artemis agreements are pursued bilaterally with interested parties without an overall cooperative framework that addresses the legal structure, program development, or partner roles and responsibilities.
U.S. export control regulations of defense articles and commercial items—governed by rules known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR)—are designed to protect U.S. national interests and intellectual property. However, they can be overly complex and restrictive, and their implementation in international agreements, policies, and how space flight systems are classified routinely limit NASA’s international collaborations on Artemis. For example, international agreements do not allow the use of partner astronauts and sharing of information with them during the periods prior to and after conclusion of a mission. In addition, unlike the ISS, the Artemis campaign lacks a unique EAR classification of specific space flight items or consistent jurisdiction and classification of Artemis elements, such as the Orion spacecraft, that would simplify the timely exchange of space flight items and technical information with international partners.
With costs for the Artemis campaign likely to reach hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades, NASA is trying to make its Moon to Mars plans more sustainable by sharing costs with its international partners. Partners are helping to defray costs by providing a capability—such as space flight hardware and related operations, robotics, or enhanced lunar communication—with a value for the capability determined at the outset of the agreement rather than allocating a specific percentage of costs to each partner or creating an ongoing obligation to include partner astronauts on future missions. Finally, our analysis showed that uncrewed and robotic space flight projects in which NASA works with international partners have, on average, experienced less cost growth despite higher levels of complexity. One possible reason is the use by NASA’s international partners of trade studies and firm-fixed-price contracts to aid in controlling project costs. Given its deep space ambitions and current budget profile, NASA will be unable to achieve its long-term Artemis objectives without effectively incorporating international partner cost management strategies.
WHAT WE RECOMMENDED
To increase the effectiveness and affordability of Artemis integration efforts with international partners, we recommended NASA senior leadership (1) establish a coordination strategy with NASA’s international partners that includes recurring forums specifically for Artemis Accords signatories interested in participating in the Artemis campaign; (2) establish NASA-led Artemis campaign boards and working groups for partners with agreed-upon commitments and provide opportunities for liaison representation from international partner agencies; (3) issue a detailed strategy and architecture for missions beyond Artemis IV that considers potential international partner roles and responsibilities; (4) perform a detailed gap analysis and cost estimate for Artemis missions beyond Artemis IV that will help inform a cost-sharing strategy with international partners; (5) establish a full-time export control team dedicated to Artemis programs in support of space flight developments; (6) review export control requirements and consider additional roles for partner astronauts to increase their utilization in NASA space flight operations; (7) establish a full- time export control team dedicated to the Artemis programs in support of space flight operations; (8) coordinate with other federal agencies to develop a unique EAR classification for the Gateway program; (9) execute Artemis agreements with key international space agency partners to ensure partner roles and responsibilities are clearly understood and allow for efficient and timely partnerships in support of Artemis; and (10) develop an automated routing method for processing international agreements within NASA to increase timeliness.
We provided a draft of this report to NASA management who concurred with 9 of our 10 recommendations and described planned actions to address them. We consider the proposed actions responsive and will close them upon completion and verification. However, the Agency non-concurred with Recommendation 4 and it will remain unresolved pending further discussions with NASA.