Status Report

Testimony of Marcia Smith: Senate Science, Technology, and Space Hearing: International Space Exploration Program

By SpaceRef Editor
April 27, 2004
Filed under , ,

Marcia S. Smith, Specialist in Aerospace and telecommunications Policy, Congressional Research Service

Potential International Cooperation in NASA’s New Exploration Initiative

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today to testify about
potential international cooperation in President Bush’s exploration initiative. You asked that I
provide an overview of the international space setting, to provide information about the roles that
Europe, Russia, and India might play, and to raise related issues that might be of interest to the

The New Exploration Initiative

On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush made a major space policy address in which
he directed NASA to focus its activities on returning humans to the Moon by 2020 and someday
sending them to Mars and “worlds beyond.” The President invited other countries to participate,
saying –

We’ll invite other nations to share the challenges and opportunities of this new era of
discovery. The vision I outline here is a journey, not a race. And I call on other nations
to join us on this journey, in the spirit of cooperation and friendship.

The International Space Setting

The President’s exploration initiative involves both human and robotic space flights to the
Moon, Mars, and “worlds beyond,” as well as space-based observatories and other spacecraft to
answer the question of whether there is life elsewhere in the universe. This broadly scoped
exploration program opens a wide range of opportunities for international participation.
The number of countries involved in space activities is probably larger than most people realize.
The list of “launching countries” – those that have their own launch vehicles and launch sites –
includes the United States, Russia, Europe, China, Japan, India, and Israel. Like the United States,
Russia, Europe, and Japan have sent spacecraft to the Moon and beyond (see Appendix 1).
Although the United States, Russia, and China are the only countries capable of launching
people into space, astronauts and cosmonauts from 29 other countries have journeyed into space on
American or Russian spacecraft.1 Many countries have their own communications or remote sensing satellites.2 Virtually every country in the world uses satellites, primarily for
communications, weather, navigation, and remote sensing.

NASA’s authority to conduct international space activities is codified in Section 205 of the
1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act, which created NASA. Since that time, the agency has
engaged in thousands of cooperative arrangements ranging from the exchange of data, to training
scientists how to interpret remote sensing imagery, to foreign experiments on U.S. satellites and U.S.
experiments on foreign satellites, to joint development of spacecraft, to construction of the
International Space Station (ISS). Cooperation has been undertaken not only with U.S. allies, but
with our rivals as well. Even at the height of U.S.-Soviet space competition in the early days of the
Space Age, the two countries also worked together-at the United Nations through the Committee
on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and through bilateral cooperative agreements as early as 1962.
While the number of potential partners for the new exploration initiative is large, it is likely that
attention will focus first on countries with whom the United States has traditionally cooperated in
large space endeavors such as ISS (which involves Canada, Europe, Russia, and Japan), and those
with the ability to launch spacecraft. You asked that I focus my remarks on the potential roles that
Europe, Russia, and India could play.


Brief Overview. European countries conduct space activities in a number of ways. Some
countries, such as France, Germany, and Italy have substantial national space programs, and may
invite international cooperation in those activities on a bi- or multi-lateral basis. Other European
space activities are conducted under the aegis of the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA currently
has 15 members: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the
Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Some of
ESA’s programs are mandatory (all members must contribute to them) and others are optional
(countries can choose whether or not to participate). Europe’s participation in the ISS program is
primarily through ESA, where it is an optional program. Eleven ESA members participate.3 (The
United States and Italy also have a separate bilateral agreement covering certain hardware provided
by Italy.) ESA and the European Union (EU)4 are working closely together today, and in January
2004, the European Parliament adopted a “Resolution on the Action Plan for Implementing the
European Space Policy.” ESA and the EU are jointly sponsoring the development of the Galileo
navigation satellite system, and are encouraging other countries to join them in that program.

ESA developed the Ariane launch vehicle; its first launch was in 1979. Ariane launches are
conducted by the French company, Arianespace, from Kourou, French Guiana, on the northern coast
of South America. ESA also is developing a smaller launch vehicle, Vega, and has a cooperative
agreement with Russia to launch Russia’s Soyuz launch vehicle from Kourou. Arianespace is often
cited as being the dominant provider of commercial space launch services in the world, but the
downturn in the commercial space market has affected Arianespace along with other commercial
launch services companies. Consequently, ESA adopted a European Guaranteed Access to Space
(EGAS) program that will provide 960 million euros to Arianespace through 2009.
Astronauts from several European countries have flown into space as representatives of ESA
or their own countries on Russian or American spacecraft. In the late 1980s, ESA announced a plan
to develop its own human space flight vehicle, Hermes, but the program was terminated because of
cost considerations.

ESA and individual European countries have built and launched a large number of spacecraft
including space-based observatories and other scientific satellites (including some to destinations
beyond the Moon, see Appendix 1), as well as satellites for communications, weather, and remote
sensing. They are primarily for civilian purposes, but some of the non-ESA satellites are military.

ESA’s 2003 budget was 2.7 billion euros ($3.1 billion using today’s exchange rate).

Current Interest in Space Exploration. ESA initiated the Aurora program in 2001 to
formulate and implement “a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of solar
system bodies holding promise for traces of life.”5 The Aurora program envisions an international
human mission to Mars by 2025. ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft is now in orbit around Mars, and
SMART-1 is currently enroute to the Moon.

The European reaction to President Bush’s speech was generally supportive, though cautionary
about obtaining the required resources to conduct such a program. In a joint ESA-EU statement,
ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain, stated that “The important point in looking at the
American vision is that space is an international field. A coherent European Space Policy does not
make any sense if not grounded in the larger global context.” He added that “Unlike in the days of
the Cold War, getting to the moon and Mars is not about proving one’s superiority over a political
enemy. It is about all of us, around the world, working together for the common benefit.”6

Potential Role in the Exploration Initiative. European countries individually and
through ESA could participate in the exploration initiative at many levels, including providing
launch capacity, building and operating robotic and human spacecraft, providing scientific
instruments, and providing astronauts. The United States has a long history of cooperation with
ESA and individual European countries on scientific and human space flight programs, including
the space shuttle and the International Space Station.


Brief Overview. The Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space (Sputnik, 1957), the
first person into space (Yuri Gagarin, 1961), the first space station (Salyut 1, in 1971) and achieved
many other space “firsts.” The Soviets conducted a broad space program similar to that of the
United States, with spacecraft orbiting the Earth for scientific or applications purposes (military and
civilian), probes sent to the Moon and Mars, and a robust human space flight program. Since 1967,
Soyuz spacecraft have been used to take cosmonauts into space. The Soyuz has been upgraded
several times, and is currently designated Soyuz TMA. The Soviets were not able to develop a
Saturn V-class launch vehicle capable of sending cosmonauts to the Moon during the 1960s, and
concentrated instead on activities in Earth orbit, operating seven space stations from 1971-2001. The
best known of these is the Mir space station complex (1986-2001). It was permanently occupied by
cosmonauts from 1989-1999, and intermittently occupied in other years. Mir was deorbited in 2001.
Crews sometimes included individuals from other countries, including the United States.

Russia developed a space shuttle similar (but not identical) to the U.S. shuttle. Called Buran,
it was launched only once, in 1988, without a crew. By this time, the Soviets had succeeded in
developing a Saturn V-class launch vehicle, called Energia. Energia was launched only twice,
however (including the Buran flight).

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia sharply reduced funding for space
activities. The Energia and Buran programs were discontinued. Yuri Koptev, who headed the
Russian space agency from its founding in 1992 until March 2004, often said that the Russian space
budget was approximately one-tenth of its level under the Soviet government. According to Mr.
Koptev, the 2004 budget for Russian civilian space activities is $526 million.7

Russia restructured its space program in March 2004. The Russian Aviation and Space Agency,
which Mr. Koptev headed, was split into two, with aviation programs transferred to one agency, and
space programs placed in a new Federal Space Agency subordinate to the Ministry of Industry and
Energy. Mr. Koptev was replaced by Col. Gen. Anatoly Perminov, who previously headed Russia’s
military space program. What impact, if any, these changes will have on U.S.-Russian space
cooperation is not known at this time.

The United States and the Soviet Union/Russia have cooperated in space activities since the
early 1960s in space science and human space flight activities. The two countries conducted the
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975 where a U.S Apollo spacecraft docked with a Russia Soyuz
spacecraft for two days of joint experiments. From 1995-1998, seven U.S. astronauts remained on
Russia’s space station Mir for long duration (several month) missions, Russian cosmonauts flew on
the U.S. space shuttle seven times, and nine space shuttle missions docked with Mir to exchange
crews and deliver supplies. Russia joined the U.S.-led International Space Station program in 1993
and Russians and Americans now routinely fly on each other’s space vehicles and share duties on
space station crews. Russia is currently providing the only access to the space station for crews and
cargo while the U.S. space shuttle is grounded.

Current Interest in Space Exploration. Although the Soviets were never able to send
cosmonauts to the Moon, and funding for space activities declined dramatically after the collapse
of the Soviet Union, Russian government and industry space officials continue to express strong
interest in human exploration missions. At an international space conference in the fall of 2003,
then-director of the Russian space agency, Yuri Koptev, outlined long-term Russian plans, including
permanent human bases on the Moon and Mars. He added that “we believe that an organization
similar to the one for the ISS should be the basis for implementation of such ambitious projects.”8

Following President Bush’s speech, however, Mr. Koptev expressed skepticism, saying that
he thought it was “a tool in the current election campaign”9 and said “It is necessary to drop emotions
in order to see what real benefit people can derive from visiting these planets.”10 Mr. Koptev’s
successor, Gen. Perminov, expressed a more favorable view, saying that he supports President
Bush’s initiative, and wants more international cooperation in Russian space activities overall.11
On April 12, 2004, in celebration of Cosmonautics Day, Russian President Putin stopped short of
embracing such plans, but said that space “was and remains an object of our national pride” and only
by developing its space industry can “Russia claim leadership in the world.” He added that the
economic situation in Russia constrains the amount of funding available for space activities, but “I
want you to know that everyone in the leadership of the country understands that space activities fall
into the category of the most important things.”12

Potential Role in the Exploration Initiative. The Russians could cooperate in the
exploration initiative at many levels. They have a range of launch vehicles that are launched from
three sites (Plesetsk, near the Arctic Circle; Svobodny, in eastern Siberia; and the Baikonur
Cosmodrome, near the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan). As noted,
the heavy-lift Energia launch vehicle was discontinued, but possibly could be resurrected if sufficient
funding were provided. If development of a new launch vehicle is required, Russian rocket engines
could be used. Russia already builds the engines (RD-180s) for one of the U.S. launch vehicle
families (Atlas).

Russia has extensive experience in long-duration human space flight. Three Russian
cosmonauts have stayed in space continuously for one year or more; the longest mission was 14 1/2
months. (The longest any American has remained in orbit continuously is 6 1/2 months.) The
Russians also launched a series of Bion biosatellite missions that carried animals for life sciences
experiments. NASA cooperated with Russia on some of these missions,13 and may be interested in
using such free-flying spacecraft to augment research on the International Space Station.

Russia also has considerable experience with the use of nuclear reactors in space, an area in
which NASA is interested. Russia is the only country to have used nuclear reactors operationally
in space (the United States has launched only one test reactor into space, in 1965). They were
developed to power Radar Ocean Reconnaissance satellites (RORSATs) beginning in 1967, but the
Soviets terminated their use after three incidents (in 1978, 1983, and 1988) in which spacecraft
malfunctions caused, or nearly caused, radioactive material to return to Earth. Russia has less
experience than NASA with radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs), another type of nuclear power
source for spacecraft, but today provides the plutonium used in U.S. RTGs.
Russia has launched many probes to the Moon, Venus, and Mars (see Appendix 1), and two to
Halley’s Comet. The most recent Russian Mars probes (Phobos 1 and 2, and Mars ’96) involved
extensive international cooperation


Brief Overview. India conducted its first launch in 1979, and typically launches once or
twice a year. India has three launch vehicles: the ASLV for low Earth orbits, the PSLV for polar
orbits, and the new GSLV for launches to geostationary orbit. Launches are conducted from
Sriharikota, an island off the southeast coast of India. India hopes to enter the commercial launch
services market using the GSLV.

Most of India’s satellites are test satellites related to the development of new or improved
launch vehicles, or are for remote sensing. India also has purchased or built
communications/weather satellites that are launched for India by foreign commercial space launch
service providers. India’s annual space budget is approximately $450 million.14

One Indian, Rakesh Sharma, has flown in space, on a Russian spacecraft in 1984.15

Current Interest in Exploration. In 2003, India announced plans to launch a robotic
spacecraft to the Moon in 2007 and is inviting other countries to participate. India is offering to fly
10 kilogram payloads from interested countries for free. Canada, Germany, Russia, Israel, Europe,
and the United States reportedly have expressed interest. The United States and India renewed
cooperation in scientific areas, including space exploration, after the United States lifted sanctions
imposed in 1998 following India’s nuclear weapons tests.

The head of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), G. Madhavan Nair, has stated that
the robotic lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, is only the first step in India’s space exploration plans.
India’s President Kalam and Prime Minister Vajpayee also have made supportive statements not only
about robotic missions, but about eventual human space flights to Mars.

Potential Role in the Exploration Initiative. India could offer launch services, and if its
lunar probe is successful, that could open possibilities for other robotic missions.


The exploration initiative is still in its earliest definition stages and is likely to take decades to
complete. It is difficult to predict at this early stage what issues will arise as it is carried out.
Among those likely to require early attention are specific questions concerning how to prevent
unwanted technology transfer while not impeding cooperation, and how to protect the U.S. industrial
base while encouraging international participation. Today, however, I would like to focus on three
broader issues: who will join us, the line between cooperation and dependence, and whether a review
of the U.N. space treaties is needed.

Who Will Join Us? Many countries have aspirations to send human and robotic spacecraft
to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. In virtually every discussion, the assumption is that these will be
international undertakings because of their cost. While international projects are more difficult to
manage, which may increase their total cost, the cost to each participant may be less than if the
program were conducted by one nation alone. The President has invited international participation
in a U.S.-led exploration initiative. The questions are what countries do we want to include, and
will they want to join?

Several factors weigh in decisions about who to invite to join international projects. These
include not only who can offer needed capabilities and funding, but political relationships. In a
program such as this, likely to span several decades, the latter can be particularly complicated. Few
would have expected in the 1980s that Russia would be a partner in ISS a decade later, and the only
country capable of sending people and cargo to it today. Not surprisingly, in conjunction with the
President’s speech, NASA’s first outreach was to its partners in the International Space Station
program, but the question on many minds is whether China will be included in the new initiative.
At a press conference after President Bush’s speech, NASA Administrator O’Keefe was asked that
question. He responded that there is an opportunity to open that debate, but did not want to speculate
on its outcome Congress may wish to consider the advantages and disadvantages of having China
as a partner, or as a competitor, in the exploration initiative.

After we identify whom we want to invite, the question will be whether they will agree to join
us. The United States has a rich history of international cooperation, and many countries have
benefitted from it. We also have, by far, the most financial resources. NASA’s budget is five times
that of ESA and 30 times that of the Russian space agency. But for all of the successes of U.S.-led
international cooperation, there have been strains as well. In any international space endeavor,
compromises and adjustments must be made. The United States has demonstrated flexibility when
partners have not been able to fulfill their promises, and others have had to adjust to changes in U.S.
plans. The International Space Station is a prime example of both. As the leader of that project,
though, there is a greater impact when the United States changes its plans, and there have been many
throughout the past two decades. Now, the President’s exploration initiative involves another major
change, with termination of the space shuttle program as soon as space station construction is
completed, and ending NASA’s use of ISS by FY2017. The President assured the ISS partners that
the United States would fulfill its obligations, but it is not clear how that will be accomplished
without the shuttle.

Only the partners themselves can answer the question of whether they view ISS as a positive
or negative experience, but it necessarily will factor into their judgments about the current offer.
Another factor is what role they would play in setting the goals and objectives of the exploration
initiative. So far, the message is that they are being invited only to help “achieve this set of
American, U.S. objectives,” as NASA Administrator O’Keefe stated after the President’s speech.

Whether they will want to participate under that condition, or look for other opportunities where they
might be able to develop a shared vision, is not clear. With the end of the Cold War, and the
emergence of more countries with launch capabilities, the United States can no longer assume that
traditional partners like Europe, Japan, and Canada would necessarily choose to join with the United
States, instead of Russia or China, for example.

How Dependent Should the U.S. Be on International Partners? Traditionally,
NASA has established cooperative programs in a manner such that other countries were not in the
“critical path”- that is the program could be accomplished even if the foreign partner did not fulfill
its obligations. This policy began to change when Russia joined the space station program in 1993.
Although Congress directed that Russian participation should “enhance and not enable” the space
station,16 the revised design was clearly dependent on Russia for life support, emergency crew return,
attitude control, reboost, and other functions, especially in the early phases of space station
construction. Today, because of the space shuttle Columbia accident, NASA is completely
dependent on Russia for taking astronauts to and from the space station, and delivering cargo.

The situation today demonstrates the value of international cooperation, but also raises the
question of whether the United States wants to put itself in the position of being dependent on other
nations to execute its space activities. As noted, one of the two major U.S. launch vehicle families,
Atlas, is dependent on engines designed and built in Russia. Under the President’s initiative, U.S.
access to the space station between 2010 (when the shuttle is retired) and 2014 (when the new Crew
Exploration Vehicle is available) also would be dependent on Russia. While some view that as
similar to the situation today, it would, in fact, be quite different. The reasons are too complex to
discuss fully in this statement (see CRS Issue Brief IB93017), but briefly, today, there is an
agreement in place where Russia is launching U.S. crews and cargo to ISS at no cost to NASA. It
expires in 2006, however, and no agreement has been negotiated for 2010-2014. Russia could
charge whatever price it wanted for those services, and if the Iran Nonproliferation Act is still in
effect, it is not clear if NASA could pay. There also is a difference between the emergency situation
today, necessitated by the Columbia tragedy, and an intentional decision to terminate NASA’s
ability to launch astronauts into space and hope that the political relationship with Russia remains
stable and an agreement can be negotiated to enable U.S. astronauts to continue working aboard ISS.
In this sense, the President’s decision may be interpreted as forgoing “assured human access to
space.” To the extent the decision could create a condition where U.S. astronauts might not be able
to work aboard ISS, a facility being built largely at U.S. taxpayer expense, Congress may choose to
explore its implications. More broadly, where to draw the line between cooperation and dependence
might be an issue of congressional interest.

Are New International Treaties or Principles Needed? The United States is a party
to four U.N. treaties that regulate space activities: the Outer Space Treaty, the Astronaut Rescue
and Return Agreement, the Registration Convention, and the Liability Convention. None of the
major space faring countries, including the United States, is a party to a fifth U.N. space treaty, the
Moon Agreement, which focuses on exploitation of the Moon.17 A brief synopsis of the five space
treaties is included in Appendix 2. The U.N. also developed several legal principles for space activities, including Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, that
could impact exploration plans.

Even before President Bush’s announcement, some observers were suggesting that it was time
to review the space treaties to determine if any changes or new agreements are needed to reflect the
growing role of the private sector in space. The treaties were negotiated in an era when space
programs were conducted by governments, not private entities. There is growing debate about
whether or not the treaties preclude private property rights in space, for example. These issues have
not been the subject of intense interest in recent years because the likelihood of any nation or
company setting up mining operations, for example, on the Moon or other celestial bodies has
seemed remote. With President Bush’s announcement, however, that day may be drawing nearer,
and a review of the space treaties may be in order.


As is often said, to be a leader, one must have followers. With the wider variety of
international cooperative opportunities available today, potential partners might want a stronger
voice in deciding what is to be done and how – to have a shared vision, not just a U.S. vision –
and choose other international arrangements.

The United States still has by far the largest budget for civilian space activities, however. That
fact, coupled with the large number of successful U.S.-led cooperative space endeavors over the past
46 years, may convince other countries to join us rather than establish partnerships of their own
without U.S. involvement.

At the same time, questions may arise about whether the United States may be going too far in
becoming dependent on other countries for human access to space. Choosing to make the U.S.
human space flight program dependent on Russia for at least 4 years is a significant departure from
past policy. While it may signal a broader attitude towards cooperation, the advantages and
disadvantages of losing “assured human access to space” may be a timely topic for discussion.
The exploration initiative offers the United States an opportunity to affirm its historic role in
fostering international cooperation in space. The key will be whether we can adapt to the changed
landscape of cooperative possibilities, and continue to lead the world in the peaceful exploration of

Appendix 2: Synopsis of the U.N. Space Treaties

The United States is a party to the first four of the following treaties, which were developed
through the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS). It is
not a party to the fifth, the Moon Agreement, nor are any other of the major spacefaring countries.
The numbers of ratifications and signatures to these treaties shown below are current as of January
2003 (the most recent data available). The texts of the treaties, and the lists of signatories, (“States
Parties”) are available at

Treaty on Principles Governing Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space
Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the “Outer Space Treaty”)

Entered into force 10 October 1967. 98 ratifications and 27 signatures.

  • Exploration and use of outer space* shall be for the benefit of, and in the interests of, all countries and shall be province of all mankind.
  • Outer space is free for exploration and use by all States and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.
  • There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space and States shall facilitate international cooperation in such investigations.
  • Outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;
  • Nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction shall not be placed in orbit or on celestial bodies or stationed in space in any other manner.
  • The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
  • The establishment of military bases, installations or fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden; the use of military personnel for scientific research or other peaceful purposes is permitted.
  • Astronauts shall be regarded as envoys of all mankind.
  • States Parties are responsible for national space activities, whether undertaken by governmental or non-governmental (e.g. private sector) entities; the activities of non-governmental entities require authorization and continuing supervision of the appropriate State Party.
  • States Parties are internationally liable to other States Parties for damage caused by their space objects.
  • Studies and exploration of outer space are to be conducted so as to avoid harmful contamination and adverse changes to the environment of Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter.
  • All stations, installations, equipment and space vehicles on the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be open to representatives of other States Parties on a basis of reciprocity.

* Where “outer space” appears in this synopsis, the full phrase is “outer space, including the Moon
and other celestial bodies.” It was shortened here for brevity’s sake.

Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, Return of Astronauts, and Return of Objects
Launched into Space (the “Astronaut Rescue and Return Agreement”)

Entered into force 3 December 1968. 88 ratifications, 25 signatures, and 1 acceptance
of rights and obligations.

  • States Parties are to render humanitarian assistance to astronauts in distress or who have made an emergency or unintended landing on their territory, and to return the astronauts to the launching authority.
  • States Parties are to return objects launched into outer space or their component parts to the launching authority if they land on their territory.

Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the “Liability

Entered into force 1 September 1972. 82 ratification, 25 signatures, 2 acceptances of
rights and obligations.

  • Procedures are created for presenting and resolving claims for damages caused by space objects on the Earth, to aircraft, or to other space objects.
  • The launching state is absolutely liable for damage caused on Earth’s surface or to aircraft in flight; if the damage is caused elsewhere (e.g., in space), the launching state is liable only if the damage is due to its fault or the fault of persons for whom it is responsible.

Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the “Registration

Entered into force 15 September 1976. 44 ratifications, 4 signatures, and 2 acceptances
of rights and obligations.

  • States Parties are to maintain a national register of objects launched into space.
  • States Parties must report certain information about the launch and payload to the United Nations as soon as practicable, and notify the U.N. when an object no longer is in orbit.

Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the
“Moon Agreement”)

Entered into force 11 July 1984. 10 ratifications and 5 signatures.

  • Exploration and use of the Moon shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interest of all countries, and due regard shall be paid to the interests of present and future generations and to the need to promote higher standards of living and conditions of economic and social progress and development in accordance with the U.N. charter.
  • The Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind; neither the surface nor the subsurface nor any part thereof shall become property of any State, international intergovernmental or non-governmental organization, national organization or nongovernmental entity or of any natural person.
  • States Parties shall undertake to establish an international regime to govern the exploitation of the Moon’s natural resources as such exploitation is about to become feasible. The regime’s purposes include the orderly and safe development of the Moon’s natural resources, the rational management of those resources, the expansion of opportunities to use those resources, and an equitable sharing by all States Parties in the benefits derived from those resources, whereby the interests and needs of the developing countries, as well as the efforts of those countries which have contributed either directly or indirectly to the exploration of the Moon, shall be given special consideration.
  • States Parties bear international responsibility for national activities on the Moon, whether by governmental or non-governmental entities. Activities of non-governmental entities must take place only under the authority and continuing supervision of the appropriate State Party.
  • All space vehicles, equipment, facilities, etc. shall be open to other States Parties so all States Parties may assure themselves that activities of others are in conformance with this agreement. Procedures are established for resolving differences.


1 Afghanistan, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, India,
Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia,
Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

2 A comprehensive list is outside the scope of this testimony, but, in addition to the launching countries,
includes Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, Malaysia, Morocco,
Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Arab

3 Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the
United Kingdom are signatories to the ISS Intergovernmental Agreement. The United Kingdom does not
provide funding for the ISS program, however, so in some case the number of participants is cited as 10.

4The EU members are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy,
Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Ten more countries will
join the EU in May 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland,
Slovakia, and Slovenia. Additional countries have applications pending.

5 See ESA’s Aurora Web site:

6 Europe’s United Response to US Space Plans. European Commission press release, February 18, 2004.

7 Russian Aerospace Agency to Have $632 Million for 2004 Air, Space Craft Programs. Moscow Agentstvo
Voyennykh Novostey WWW-Text in English, 1252 GMT, 29 Jan 04 (via Foreign Broadcast Information
Service, hereafter FBIS).

8 Morring, Frank. Big Plans. Aviation Week & Space Technology, Oct. 13, 2003, p. 29.

9 Russian Space Chief Calls US Space Plans an [sic] Campaign ‘Tool’ for Bush. Moscow Agentstvo
Voyennykh Novostey WWW-Test in English, 1052 GMT, 29 Jan 04 (via FBIS).

10 Moscow ITAR-TASS in English, 1028 GMT, 17 Feb 04 (via FBIS).

11 Pieson, Dmitry. Perminov Supports Moon/Mars Plans, International Cooperation. Aerospace Daily, 5
April 2004, p. 5.

12 Russia: Putin Acknowledges Budget Problems in Space Exploration. Moscow, ITAR-TASS in English,
1730 GMT, 12 Apr 04 (via FBIS).

13 NASA’s participation in the last two Bion flights, Bion 11 and 12, in 1996-1997, was controversial,
especially after a rhesus money used for the experiments on Bion 11 died during a post-flight examination.
After an independent review, NASA suspended its participation in primate research on Bion 12.

14 Rohde, David. India’s Lofty Ambitions in Space Meet Earthly Realities. New York Times, January 24, 2004, p. A3.

15 NASA astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who perished aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 2003, was born and
raised in India, but had become a U.S. citizen.

H. Rept. 103-273, to accompany H.R. 2491, the FY1994 VA-HUD-IA appropriations bill (P.L. 103-124).

The 10 countries that are parties to the Moon Agreement (meaning they have both signed and ratified it)
are Australia, Austria, Chile, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, and
Uruguay. Five others have signed it (France, Guatemala, India, Peru, and Romania), but have not ratified
it, so are not bound by its provisions.

SpaceRef staff editor.