WASHINGTON - Singapore signed the Artemis Accords on Monday (March 28), becoming the 18th country to join the American-led international agreement that sets out guidelines for responsible space exploration.
The signing ceremony took place during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's working visit to the United States, his first under the Biden administration.
PM Lee will meet US President Joe Biden, who took office in January last year, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and other Cabinet secretaries while in Washington.
Singapore hopes to work more closely with like-minded partners such as the US in the space industry, said Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, who represented Singapore at the signing ceremony.
Said Mr Gan: "I hope that by joining the Artemis Accords, Singapore will be able to cooperate more closely with like-minded partners like the US, to progress the international conversation on space norms and spur the development of the global space sector."
The accords, which are based on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, lay out the principles for safe and responsible international cooperation on civil space exploration.
They are spearheaded by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) space agency and inspired by the Artemis programme, which seeks to send humans to the moon again by 2025.
Mr Gan said that space-based technologies are important to many civilian and government functions, adding that Singapore sees strong economic potential in the application of space-based technologies in aviation, maritime and other sectors.
Singapore has been working to grow its "relatively nascent but fast-growing space ecosystem", which has more than 50 companies and over 1,800 professionals, he added.
Last month, the Government announced it will invest $150 million in researching and developing space capabilities.
Nasa deputy administrator Pam Melroy, who represented the US at the ceremony, said that space-based technologies represent a high-growth industry around the world.
"The commercial space industry is finding its way into almost every other industry. Those space-based technologies are becoming critical," she said.
The technologies developed to support people in deep space, for instance, will also have applications on Earth.
She said: "As we go out into the solar system, with humans, with technologies, we find that it is very important to take those norms and behaviour, the values that we share... with us."
These include responsible behaviour, transparency, and the sharing of science information, she added.
Other than the US and Singapore, the other countries in the agreement are Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea, Romania, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
US State Department official Jennifer Littlejohn, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, said the signing would take America and Singapore's civil space partnership to the next level.
"The Artemis Accords… are the keystone of US civil space diplomacy, presenting a powerful and incredible opportunity for this generation to positively define rules and principles to guide our exploration into outer space," she said at the ceremony.
Earlier on Monday morning, PM Lee met Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in Washington.
Both welcomed the growing economic and financial cooperation between Singapore and the US bilaterally and internationally, including the US-Singapore Climate Partnership and sustainable finance, said PM Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin.
"They also exchanged views on domestic responses to facilitate pandemic recovery and exchanged views on regional and international issues, including the developments in Ukraine," she said.
PM Lee and Dr Yellen also discussed cooperation at international fora to deal with emerging challenges affecting the global financial system, she added.
The Prime Minister, who will be in the US until April 2, is scheduled to meet Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin later on Monday at the Pentagon.
PM Lee will also meet senior members of the US Senate and House of Representatives and take part in a think-tank dialogue, before travelling to New York City where he will meet United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other leaders.