Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Leaders of seven national space agencies called for greater international cooperation on space endeavors Monday during an online conference, and they cited climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic as areas in which cooperation could pay off.
"I want to work closely with international partners and exchange best practices," said Lisa Campbell, president of the Canadian Space Agency. "We need to do this together to ensure the benefits come back to Earth to solve challenges for future generations."
Campbell was joined by heads of space agencies in the United States, Europe, China, Russia, Japan and India at the 71st International Astronautical Congress, hosted by the Paris-based International Astronautical Federation.
Speakers noted that space activity is still growing despite the pandemic, and as eight nations now have full space exploration programs.
"If the whole world can actually unite together in the space endeavor, we can actually achieve greater success," said Kejian Zhang administrator of the China National Space Administration.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the U.S. Artemis program to return people to the moon in 2024 makes international cooperation more important than ever.
"In the International Space Station, we've had 15 countries operating ... for 20 years with humans on board," Bridenstine said. "Now, when we go to the moon under the Artemis program and on to Mars, we can build on that framework and we can have more collaboration than ever before."
He noted that Japan and Europe and other nations are cooperating by building infrastructure for Artemis.
Despite Bridenstine's assessment, the head of Russia's agency, Roscosmos, said that his nation will not participate in the Artemis program because it is too "U.S.-centric."
"The most important thing here would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation," which were used to fly to the space station, Dmitry Rogozin, the director-general of Roscosmos, said through a translator.
"If we could get back to considering making these principles as the foundation of the program, then Roscosmos could also consider its participation."
Rogozin said that, despite the lack of Russia's participation, he hopes the United States will include a port to accommodate Russian spacecraft on the proposed lunar Gateway, an orbiting station that missions would use as a staging ground to descend to the moon.
Bridenstine later posted on Twitter that the United States and its partners "look forward to working with the international community" on Artemis missions and on the Gateway.
He has said in the past that NASA's proposed Artemis Accords, governing principles for moon missions, will guide international cooperation while the Gateway has been designed using the same framework as the space station.