The National Space Council to Advance Partnerships Endeavours with International Space Faring Countries

In a news report released by the White House, the Vice President of the United States of America (USA), Kamala Harris, convened the third meeting of the National Space Council during the Biden-Harris Administration in Washington, D.C., on the 20th of December, 2023. The objective of the strategic meeting was to spotlight what the White House characterised as remarkable advancements in expanding and strengthening international collaborations in various aspects of space endeavours.

The meeting highlighted USA’s progress in broadening and deepening its international space partnerships across various areas, including supporting the country’s goal to provide benefits that aid global growth. In addition, the USA is expected to lead a return of humans to the Moon in collaboration with its allies and partners.

The primary focus of the meeting revolved around ongoing global collaborations, notably delving into initiatives like the Artemis Accords and the proactive endeavours led by the United States to prohibit the testing of direct-ascent antisatellite (ASAT) weapons. Moreover, emphasis was placed on the collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Italian space agency (ASI) to deploy the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) aboard an Italian satellite to improve societal health in South America and Africa using environmental data. In 2023, Vice President Harris directed the National Space Council to develop a plan to enhance air quality monitoring in the Southern Hemisphere. In response to this directive, NASA is intensifying its collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to extend the forthcoming Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols (MAIA) mission. This expansion aims to enhance the assessment of airborne particulate matter linked to detrimental health effects in Africa and South America and disseminate MAIA’s data to governments and organisations across Africa and South America to ensure broader access.

Furthermore, Phil Gordon, the National Security Adviser to the Vice President, directed council members to foster actions that encourage international cooperation. These actions encompassed ongoing engagement for a ban on ASAT testing, practical execution of the Artemis Accords, and devising a strategy to enhance the use of space for supporting international capacity building initiatives. Notably, in 2022, both Nigeria and Rwanda officially became participants in the Artemis Accords. Subsequently, in 2023, Angola joined these African nations and became a signatory to the same accord.

The Vice President also announced NASA’s initiatives to foster collaborations between faculty and students from South Africa and the United States in astrophysics research. These partnerships will leverage observations of the universe obtained through stratospheric scientific balloons. NASA intends to broaden this initiative within the next year, forging new partnerships with emerging space faring nations in southern Africa and South America. The overarching objective is to cultivate robust and enduring collaborative ties between American scientists and the upcoming cohort of scientists and engineers. This effort aims to empower and support these future leaders to drive science, engineering, and technology advancements within their respective countries.

Africa’s participation in international space collaborations positions the continent as a valued partner in global scientific endeavours and enhances its visibility on the global stage. It also strengthens diplomatic ties with spacefaring nations, potentially attracting further investments and partnerships for technological advancement.