At NASA, France's Macron and US vow strong space cooperation
by AFP Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 30, 2022
Paris and Washington pledged Wednesday to reenforce their cooperation in space, particularly on exploration and climate, during a visit by France's Emmanuel Macron to NASA headquarters alongside US Vice President Kamala Harris.
The French president, on a state visit to the United States, highlighted the American lunar program Artemis, whose first uncrewed test mission launched in mid-November with participation of the European Space Agency (ESA).
"We are very keen" to participate, he told Harris, adding with a smile: "It's very important for us, as long as you can propose a French leader to fly to the Moon quite rapidly," he said, in a nod to French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who joined Macron for the NASA visit.
The two ally nations are also collaborating on the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, whose initial images have already shaken up our understandings of the universe.
On the climate front, Macron mentioned the scheduled December 12 liftoff of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, a NASA satellite developed in partnership with France's CNES which aims to monitor the levels of oceans, lakes and rivers.
"We are so very proud to work with France," Harris, who chairs the White House's National Space Council, said, noting how the two countries have partnered on space exploration for more than 60 years.
"In this time, we have made great strides and yet in so many ways we are beginning a new journey together," she said.
When she visited Paris last year, the deputy to President Joe Biden joined Macron to "launch a strategic dialogue on space," the French leader recalled.
With Macron suggesting that outer space could become a point of international contention, he and Harris stressed the importance of developing new norms of conduct in space.
France in June joined the Artemis accords promoted by the United States -- a series of principles governing conduct in deep space by different nations. The policies are aimed at deconfliction of activities, implementation of safety zones, registration of space objects and coordination on emergency assistance.
On Tuesday France also pledged not to conduct anti-satellite missile tests, which cause space debris that can then threaten orbiting spacecraft and satellites. The United States made the pledge earlier this year.
Harris, Macron get first look at new James Webb images
Macron and Harris were given the first preview of II ZW 96, a merging of two galaxies about 500 million light years away from Earth. Images of II ZW 96 were captured by the James Webb Telescope, which is part of an international project with partners from NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
The swirling body of celestial activity is evolving in the Delphinus constellation near the celestial equator, which is an outward projection of the Earth's equator.
II ZW 96 catches the eye with extremely bright infrared "tendrils" seemingly reaching out between the cores of the two galaxies. The luminosity or brightness of these wavelengths is 100 billion times that of the Sun, according to NASA.
Harris and Macron also saw a new composite image from the Pillars of Creation.
After witnessing the awe-inspiring images from the James Webb Telescope, Macron hailed it as a result of the partnership and shared objectives between France and the United States.
"Speaking about space is obviously speaking about science and having this journey imagined," Macron said. "But this is also the story of great cooperation between our two countries."
"We decided together to strengthen this cooperation and launch a strategic dialogue on space. We want to work closely together indeed on climate and environment as one of the key verticals where we do believe together we have a common objective."
The longstanding coordination between France and the United States has seen many ambitious research projects come to fruition, notably the creation of the Argos system.
In 1978, the French Space Agency, NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration teamed up to launch the satellite system as a scientific tool for collecting environmental and oceanographic data. The system transmits 3 million messages per day and is a key tool in monitoring the Earth's ever-changing environment.
On Dec. 12, NASA and the French space agency Centre National d'Ã‰tudes Spatiales will embark on their next large-scale space project when the Surface Water and Ocean Topography satellite launches. It will be the first satellite mission to observe almost all of the water on the Earth's surface from rivers and reservoirs to lakes and oceans.
Macron said France is enthusiastic about partnering on Artemis I, II and III as well. These missions will set the framework for humans to go deeper into space than ever before.
"As long as you can propose a French leader to fly to the moon quite rapidly we are quite happy with that," Macron said.
NASA temporarily loses communication with Orion spacecraft
Washington DC (UPI) Nov 23, 2021
Communication between NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston and the Artemis I moon mission spacecraft was lost for 47 minutes Wednesday morning. It was resolved by a reconfiguration on the ground side, according to NASA. NASA said in a blog statement that communication was lost temporarily while reconfiguring the communication link between the Orion spacecraft and Deep Space Network overnight. "The reconfiguration has been conducted successfully several times in the last few days, and ... read more
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