The UK Space Agency has today signed a statement of intent with NASA to collaborate on future lunar projects, with the UK ultimately planning to build a communications system on the Moon.

The signing, which was timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the NASA mission that first took humans to the lunar surface, was announced by UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore at the Policy Exchange in London in a session entitled ‘Embracing the New Space Age’.

“I can announce today that NASA and the UK Space Agency have signed a letter recognising our joint interest in accessing science and using private sector capabilities to support this endeavor,” said Skidmore.

“They’ve also agreed to set up a joint working group to coordinate joint scientific research, and also to identify the future collaborative opportunities, including the possibility of using a proposed UK commercial communication service at the Moon.”

UK targets Moon communications system

Skidmore was keen to highlight that the UK’s alliance with the US has extended to space-related topics in the past, despite the difference in scale of the countries’ respective space agencies.

“Our two countries have a fantastic history together, and space exploration has been part of it for quite a while. Back in the 1970s, Richard Nixon gifted pieces of moon rock gathered by Apollo 11 and Apollo 15 to some of America’s allies, including the UK,” he said.

“I think it’s so important that today, on this 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, that we’re able to make this continuous joint commitment for the future.”

However, he was keen to highlight that the UK had its own area of leadership in the space industry – specifically around satellites – that makes it uniquely placed to build a Moon communications system.

“We as the UK have a fantastic story to tell. We are a satellite telecoms powerhouse,” he said.

“One in four telecom satellites contains parts made in the UK.”

UK Space Agency plans large-scale international cooperation

The announcement is one of a number of efforts that the UK Space Agency is making to strengthen its international collaborations, with Skidmore also announcing the intention to sign a memorandum of understanding with Portugal to collaborate on space industry efforts.

“The UK is leading international discussions to discuss practical ways in which governments and industry can ensure that space will be available for future generations,” he said,

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“Building our own work with the increased global appetite for international space agencies to work together, the UK Space Agency is now looking to enhance our level of international engagement and cooperation through a series of bilateral programmes.

“The intent is to provide a real opportunity for the UK space sector, industry and academia to strengthen its international relationships, while also continuing to collaborate with our close partners across Europe.”


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