What Are the Implications of Peru Joining the Artemis Accords?

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Late last month Peru became the 41st country to sign on to the Artemis Accords, a U.S.-led multilateral effort to reaffirm core principles of peaceful space exploration. While news regarding the latest country to join the accords is not a priority in the public eye, the addition of another Latin American country to the very diverse set of countries that now make up the signatories is significant from a regional standpoint.

Q1: What are the Artemis Accords again?

A1: Launched by NASA and seven other nations in 2020, the Artemis Accords are a nonbinding political commitment to a set of principles guiding the conduct of civil space exploration. The namesake of the accords is the Artemis Program, which NASA is leading along with industry and international partners to create a sustainable human presence on the Moon and eventually on Mars.

While often a source of confusion, the accords do not equate to participation in the NASA-led program but are instead part of U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to promote the peaceful use of space in this new era of space exploration. They are largely rooted in the principles established in the core space treaties but seek to shape the activities of a more diverse set of actors conducting space exploration in a world that is very different from the one that existed when such principles were first laid down.

Q2: Why do the accords matter?

A2: Space governance forums like the United Nations, where nations debate the rules governing the use of space, are often the setting of familiar geopolitical battles. For the United States, for instance, building a global coalition around democratic principles and values is seen as key to protecting critical civil, military, and commercial interests in space. As noted in the Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy, the United States “will compete where necessary against countries that seek to impose a different view of outer space governance.”

While some of these tensions are as old as the very first satellite, the landscape is much different. Today’s space governance discussions involve a diversity of actors and countries at all stages of space development. For some, the accords speak to today’s priorities, such as Luxembourg’s, which has prioritized the mining and use of space resources endorsed in the accords. Other countries that have signed on, like Ecuador and Iceland, have very nascent space programs. For those with limited space activity today, adopting the accords seeks to spur early efforts and to signal a commitment to helping shape the rules of the road that will impact future activities.

Q3: How many countries have signed on?

A3: Forty-two, but this number may be out of date quite quickly. As of this writing, Peru and Slovakia were the latest to sign on. Momentum for adoption has continued building apace since the accords were introduced four years ago. By the end of 2023, the list of signatories had reached 33. Already in 2024 there have been nine new ones. Informed guesses exceed the 50-country mark by the end of the year, per discussion at a recent space diplomacy forum in Washington, D.C.

Q4: The more the merrier?

A4: For the most part, yes. Higher numbers reaffirm broad-based agreement in core principles of space activity even among countries with disparate, even competing, interests in many other areas.

However, the growth also raises the complexity of discussions about what the implementation of those principles actually looks like. For example, one of the first topics the signatories decided to tackle was “deconfliction of space activities,” which is tied to avoiding harmful interference when conducting space activities in a shared environment. While the language in the accords uses the term “deconfliction,” already there has been pushback from signatories like Brazil on using a label that presupposes the existence of “conflict.” As a result, at the second Artemis Accords workshop in Canada last May the group discussed “non-interference” instead. This is a subtle shift but an example of the type of discussions that, while important to achieve broad-based support across languages, frustrates even the staunchest diplomat. With many voices in the room, progress on implementation approaches will be more satisfying but also harder fought and more time consuming.

Q5: Why did Peru sign? What does Peru expect by signing?

A5: The Peruvian foreign minister said in a statement that by joining, Peru seeks to “express a common vision” and establish cooperation mechanisms with member countries, “especially with the United States,” in activities that include exploration and sustainable use of space resources.

The timing of the decision can be linked to another major milestone—the 50th anniversary of Peru’s national space agency, the National Commission for Aerospace Research and Development (CONIDA). Established in 1974 as an entity attached to the Ministry of Defense, CONIDA’s lines of efforts include the operation of PeruSat-1, a high-resolution Earth observations satellite procured from France’s Airbus that provides imagery for civil and defense applications. Peru's interest in increasing space exploration-related efforts could be bolstered by joining the accords, as seen with signatories like Brazil, the first country in Latin America (LATAM) to join, which has directly referenced the effort in its national space plan.

Access to this growing global forum is also a major driver, as referenced by Peru’s government pointing to the possibility of paving the way for “joint programs” and joining the “global dialogue on space matters.” As a long-standing and active member of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), Peru has experience in multilateral space forums. Its membership in APSCO in fact may enable it to participate in a China-led lunar project that is typically seen as a competing effort to Artemis, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). During a meeting hosted in Cusco in 2023, APSCO and the China National Space Administration signed an agreement on ILRS. This is further evidence that a simple geopolitical reading of nations taking sides is insufficient to account for the complex alliances that emerge as they seek all available paths to advance national space development.

Q6: What does this mean for Latin America?

A6: With the signatories in LATAM coming to seven—a grouping that includes countries on both ends of the space development spectrum, from major space players like Brazil and Argentina to newcomers like Uruguay—an opportunity for regional dialogue emerges.

Reflecting on Brazil and Argentina’s experience working together on a joint satellite mission, a Brazilian Space Agency official recently commented on the value of thinking about space from “our [Latin American] perspective,” one that is “different” from other regions of the world. In his remarks he acknowledged both the challenge and reward of intra-regional cooperation.

Space cooperation within LATAM should not just focus on joint projects, but on national governance as well. While not always recognized as such, the legal, policy, and institutional frameworks that countries set to manage and execute their space activities are absolutely essential. The LATAM countries that have signed onto the accords have very different institutional arrangements, experience levels, and space ecosystems. At the same time, they exhibit similar challenges, such as building sustained support from decisionmakers focused on addressing critical societal needs that seem utterly disconnected from space. This dynamic creates a valuable opportunity for dialogue that starts from the common ground of shared principles and examines what it may take to implement specific principles as national efforts progress. LATAM nations can share lessons learned with each other and even raise concerns that speak to regional realities. For example, the accords reinforce the principle of open sharing of scientific data, which may look different to implement for the several LATAM countries where space is led by the military operating dual-use satellites that collect data for both civil/scientific and defense purposes.

LATAM has shown up in the Artemis Accords umbrella, a testament to a shared commitment to advancing governance for the peaceful use of space that carries on in other forums. The challenge—and opportunity—is fostering meaningful alignments across these efforts to leverage them to advance space development in the region. Beyond celebrating Peru’s signature, the impetus should now be on taking concrete steps to translate high-level principles into implementable measures that open the door to needed progress on the national space governance front, recognizing the “unique perspective” that stems from economic, social, and political challenges facing the space nations in the region.

Laura Delgado López is a visiting fellow with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and a Council on Foreign Relations international affairs fellow