Nigeria, represented by the Minister of Communications, Prof Isa Pantami, and Rwanda, represented by the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Space Agency, Col Francis Ngabo, signed the Artemis Accord today, becoming the first and second African countries to do so. This was done during the US-Africa Space Forum on the sideline of the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington DC, United States. The event’s vision is to leverage outer space to meet shared goals for the US-Africa relationship here on Earth, featuring broader panel discussions on the use of space to support sustainable development goals, capacity building and the role of the private sector in supporting US-Africa partnership.
According to official channels, “through Artemis, NASA aims to land the first woman and first person of colour on the Moon, heralding a new era for space exploration and utilization. While NASA is leading the Artemis missions, international partnerships will play a key role in achieving a sustainable and robust presence on the Moon while preparing to conduct a historic human mission to Mars. With numerous countries and private sector players conducting missions and operations in cislunar space, it’s critical to establish a common set of principles to govern the civil exploration and use of outer space. The Artemis Accords will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment that facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all humanity to enjoy”.
The official Artemis Accord website shows 21 countries have signed the accord, making Nigeria and Rwanda the 22nd and 23rd. According to Kagame, “Rwanda could not be more pleased to participate in this accord. Space technologies are increasingly becoming a critical tool for sustainable development, which is why Rwanda Space Agency was established two years ago to establish a space research and development centre. Rwanda is happy to work with key US industry partners such as E-Space and Atlas Space Corporation. E-Space has opened an office in Kigali, Rwanda and will offer its innovative communication services and the internet of things. We are also happy to host an Atlas antenna in Rwanda, contributing to lunar mission control. As we shoot for the stars, let us ensure that the exploration of outer space benefits all of mankind for generations to come”.
According to Col Francis Ngabo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwandan Space Agency, “Enabling shared opportunities for peaceful space explorations will benefit humanity through the discovery of solutions for cutting-edge space technologies, advances in medicine, protection of the planet and environment, creation of scientific and technical jobs and scientific breakthroughs from exploring the unknown. Even though Rwanda is currently focused on the downstream space segment, we are keeping an open mind on the upstream and want to be a part of advocating for responsible use of outer space”.
According to Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, “the Artemis Accord is all about what we should do peacefully in space, signalling the intention to help each other out, standardization of instruments so we can come to each other aids when there is a problem”.
Rwanda is one of the few East African countries with a national space program. In March 2021, the law establishing the national space program was passed by Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies aimed at coordination of Rwanda’s space sector activities geared towards securing communication, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) as well as purchasing and playing a custodian role of national spatial data and imagery. As provided by the law establishing Rwanda Space Agency, some of its responsibilities include advising the Government on creating and developing national and international space policies to implement the national and international space policies and strategies. Rwanda Space Agency is also responsible for providing geospatial services for development activities in various domains such as agriculture, urban planning, emergency response & weather forecasts, and the coordination of national efforts related to building a knowledge base in space and related technologies through conducting formal and hands-on training.
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