SECRETARY BLINKEN: Phil, thank you very, very much, and it’s wonderful to be with everyone here today, as well as in this remarkable and historic space. And I want to start by thanking the Vice President for not just convening us today but for her stewardship of the National Space Council.
Our leadership, America’s leadership in space, is critical to so many priorities here at home – for our national security, to our economic and technological competitiveness, to our strength and standing around the world. The remarkably diverse voices on this council reflect this expansive set of priorities and interests, and again, it’s so good to be with colleagues from across the Government on this here today.
It’s not exactly a secret that we’re in an era of extraordinary dynamism and activity for space exploration and research. More than 80 countries now operate in space. Dozens of space exploration companies are launching thousands of new satellites into orbit. The global space industry is valued at hundreds of billions of dollars. Space-related capabilities – like GPS technology, satellite data – are more integrated with our economy than ever before.
At the same time, I think we all know that new challenges have arisen, including from our strategic competitors. The landscape in which we operate now is far different than it was six decades ago when President Kennedy launched the mission that put a man on the moon. But our responsibilities are no less important, both for our own people but also for humankind. Our obligation today is to shape the future of the space environment so that it benefits all. Those benefits are maximized for people around the world and for generations to come.
From our perspective, one of the most effective ways that we can do this is by leveraging our partnerships. By leading with diplomacy, we are best positioned to advance discoveries that benefit us at home and that bolster our leadership around the world. We know from experience that collaboration on space delivers, and we’ve seen that most recently with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and the landing of a rover on Mars, both projects that were made possible by international partnership and international collaboration.
Today what I’d like to do is just briefly update the council on three lines of effort that the State Department is leading to advance international partnerships on space priorities. And the Vice President has touched on a number of these, but let me just foot stomp a few of the points that she made.
First, with our colleagues at NASA, we’ve grown the coalition of countries under the Artemis Accords, a set of practical principles to guide safe, peaceful, and sustainable space exploration and cooperation. You heard the Vice President say this – when this council first met just two years ago, we had about a dozen countries participating in the Artemis Accords. Today, 33 countries are on board, with 12 new signatories joining just over the past year including Angola, which joined us earlier this month. To the ambassadors here with us today from those Artemis countries: thank you. Thank you for your partnership. Thank you for your collaboration.
We are determined to continue to expand this coalition and expand its areas of cooperation as well, like we did this past October in Baku when we agreed to take practical steps to increase mission deconfliction and ensure that future operations on the lunar surface are both transparent and safe.
Second, we have made significant progress toward ending destructive, direct ascent anti-satellite missile tests in space. A single test – a single test – can release thousands of pieces of debris into space, and we know it takes only one piece of debris, traveling at thousands of miles an hour, to destroy a satellite or threaten the life of an astronaut. Since Vice President Harris committed in April 2022 that the United States would refrain from conducting anti-satellite missile tests, 36 countries, as you’ve heard, have pledged to do the same. Next year we’ll continue our diplomatic efforts to establish this as an international norm.
Third, we’re laying the groundwork for future international collaboration. A few months ago, in May, the State Department released our first-ever Strategic Framework for Space Diplomacy. We’re leading with diplomacy, advancing space policy to leverage space activities to meet a wider range of diplomatic goals; for example, making progress on the climate crisis, contending with pollution, dealing with illegal, under-reported, and unregulated fishing. As part of those efforts, we’re continuing capacity-building outreach to emerging spacefaring nations. And here, these partnerships, the transfer of knowledge, the transfer of expertise, is in many ways one of our most powerful exports.
We’re also modernizing our diplomatic workforce to ensure that they have the skills that they need to advance U.S. interests and maintain American leadership in space. Early next year we’ll add an expert focused on space to our Science Envoy Program at the State Department.
One of the most remarkable powers of space exploration is its ability to bring people together across geographies in pursuit of knowledge of the wider universe and in pursuit of progress right here on Earth. So for the State Department, I can tell you we look forward to continued close collaboration with this council, with our partners abroad, as we strive together to reach new frontiers.
Thank you very much for being here today. Phil. (Applause.)