France is set to sign a US-led multilateral agreement aiming to govern how countries behave in space and on the moon, according to two people familiar with the plans.
France’s signing of the pact, called the Artemis Accords, will mark one of the most significant endorsements yet of Washington’s effort to shape international legal norms and standards for exploring the lunar surface, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.
A spokewoman for the French space agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for NASA, which led the drafting of the Artemis Accords, did not return an email seeking comment.
French officials Tuesday night will sign the accords during a celebration at the French ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., of the French space agency’s 60th anniversary, one of the sources said.
The country will become the 20th to sign on to the pact since 2020, when it was conceived by the Trump administration as a diplomatic prong of NASA’s flagship space exploration program, Artemis. That program aims to return humans to the moon’s surface by 2025 with the help of U.S. allies and private companies.
The accords, mainly built on broader principles in the landmark 1967 Outer Space Treaty, include an array of principles designed to promote peaceful uses of space, from establishing “safety zones” around future moon bases to sharing scientific data with other countries.
The United Kingdom, Japan and Canada are other key countries that have previously signed the accords, with France set to become the seventh European state. The most recent signatory, last month, was Colombia, one of a handful of signatories that view the accords as a boost for developing their own space capabilities.
China, which is not a signatory to the Artemis Accords, is planning its own moon exploration program that NASA chief Bill Nelson and other U.S. officials see as a rival to the Artemis program. Russia, the U.S. space agency’s longtime partner on the International Space Station, plans to work with Beijing on its moon program instead of the Artemis program.