The Guayaquil Space Society Promoted Ecuador’s Joining of NASA-Led Lunar Coalition

Image: Gustavo Manrique Miranda, Ecuador’s foreign affairs minister, signs the Artemis Accords in a June 21 ceremony. Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber.

On June 21, 2023, Ecuador completed a ceremony at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Washington, D.C., signing on to the Artemis Accords, the 26th nation to do so. India signed on shortly thereafter, and this multi-national coalition, now numbering 27 nations and led by the U.S., will return humans to the lunar surface for the first time in over 50 years.

“The story of how Ecuador came to join the Accords was years in the making,” said Robert Aillon, founder and CEO of Leviathan Space Industries, President of the Guayaquil Space Society, a chapter of the National Space Society located in Ecuador, and also a member of the Board of Directors of NSS. “In 2019, our NSS chapter initiated conversations about our country joining the international coalition to return humanity to the Moon, and here, just four years later, we have signed onto the Artemis Accords. This is just one example of how individual citizens can join together under the banner of a group like NSS to make a difference.”

Members of the Guayaquil Space Society chapter joined forces with other officials, such as Mike Gold, former associate administrator of Space Policy and Partnerships at NASA, and Dr. Greg Autry, professor at Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and NSS Vice President of Space Development. Backed with this expertise, Aillon and others from the Guayaquil chapter met with officials from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Commerce, and Ministry of Foreign relations. “It took quite a few meetings and constant follow-through to educate our countrymen about the Artemis Accords in a complex political environment where other priorities had more weight for the government, but we stayed with it,” Aillon said.

Autry’s involvement also began in 2019 as he spoke to the Ecuadorian NSS chapter via Zoom. “I spoke broadly on space and about my experience on the NASA transition team and as White House Liaison with emphasis on Artemis. In another meeting in 2021, I advocated that Ecuador should consider joining the recently announced Artemis Accords. As the president of the chapter, Robert loved the idea and went on a personal crusade to see that happen, and it now has. A huge congratulations to Robert and all his colleagues in the Guayaquil Space Society, the nation of Ecuador, and the National Space Society, for supporting this high-level partnership.”

Also critical to the success of the partnership was Mike Gold, a former NASA Associate Administrator. “Mike joined this effort in 2023 and was instrumental in its success,” Autry added. Also contributing their expertise were Michelle Hanlon, professor of law at the University of Mississippi and former NSS president; Steve Wolfe, president and co-founder of Beyond Earth; Dr. Santiago Velázquez, a lawyer in Ecuador and Dean of Law Faculty at Universidad Espíritu Santo; and Inés Manzano, CEO of Estudio Jurídico Manzano & Associates.

The Guayaquil Space Society is just one of over 50 chapters of the National Space Society, with a number of them being international. “NSS congratulates the Guayaquil Space Society chapter on their success in this complex political undertaking,” said Dale Skran, COO of NSS. “This is just one more example of how regular citizens can create major changes in how their country, and other nations, approach the exploration and settlement of space. I’m proud to say that NSS has been supporting these kinds of efforts for over a half-century and will continue to do so as our species spreads throughout the solar system. Our ultimate goal is to see millions of people from all nations living and working in space and sharing the benefits of space resources with the entire world. The Guayaquil Space Society has just shown us all an example of how this can happen.”

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