The NASA coalition for moon exploration is starting to come together.
Eight nations signed the Arrangements of Artemis, a set of principles that outline responsible exploration of Earth’s closest neighbor, NASA officials announced today (Oct. 13).
The path is now clear for those eight nations – Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and (unsurprisingly) the United States – to join NASA Artemis program of manned lunar exploration. Artemis aims to land two astronauts near the lunar south pole in 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence on and around the moon by the end of the decade, bold goals NASA aims to achieve with the help of international partners and the private sector. .
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“This is just the beginning,”
The Artemis Agreements serve as a preamble to the bilateral government-to-government agreements that participating nations will sign with the United States. Such future agreements will define each country’s specific contribution to the Artemis program, while the newly signed agreements “establish rules of conduct and rules for space operations,” Bridenstine said.
For example, the signatories of the Artemis agreements claim, among other things, that they will conduct all space activities peacefully and in accordance with international law; help protect space assets, such as the Apollo landing sites; publicly release scientific data in a timely manner; helping astronauts who need it; and make their hardware and other systems “interoperable” to maximize cooperative use.
The agreements are designed to defuse conflicts outside the Earth before they flare up, Bridenstine said.
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Bridenstine said that Artemis’ ambitious timing precludes the possibility of working out an all-encompassing multilateral agreement through the United Nations or other international organizations. But he stressed that the Artemis agreements are fully consistent with the pre-existing treaties, including the most important – 1967 Treatise on outer space (OST), which forms the basis of international space law.
In effect, the Accords will “operationalize” the OST, giving it the teeth it so badly needs, said Bridenstine and Mike Gold, as associate director for NASA’s Office of International and Interagency Relations.
“If you want to join Artemis’ journey, nations must abide by the Outer Space Treaty and other rules of conduct that will lead to a more peaceful, secure and prosperous future in space exploration, not just for NASA and its partners but for everyone. humanity to enjoy, ”Gold said in yesterday’s call.
The Artemis Accords state that the use of space resources can benefit humanity. And NASA plans to exploit lunar resources extensively during the Artemis program, especially water ice that appears to be abundant on the permanently shadowed floors of lunar craters. This ice can not only provide life support for astronauts, but can also be broken down into its constituents hydrogen and oxygen, the main components of rocket fuel, agency officials pointed out.
These mining activities will be conducted in full compliance with the OST, underline the Artemis agreements. (The OST prohibits any nation from claiming sovereignty over the moon or any other celestial object. But it appears to allow the mining and sale of space resourcesmany space law experts say. And the United States Congress passed a law in 2015 explicitly allowing US companies to mine and sell offshore resources.)
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NASA first announced the existence of the Artemis agreements in May of this year, but the agency hasn’t released the full text of the document to date. This is because NASA took time to solicit and incorporate feedback from potential international partners, Bridenstine and Gold said.
This feedback has significantly improved the chords, Gold said. For example, Japanese officials convinced NASA to extend the document’s scope to activities conducted on and around comets and asteroids, he said. (The Accords already covered Mars as well as the moon; NASA intends that Artemis’ work will serve as a springboard for manned missions to the Red Planet in the 2030s.)
The current text of the Agreements is not necessarily the definitive one; changes could be made in the future if needed, Bridenstine and Gold said.
The Artemis program counts on substantial contributions from private industry and international partners. For example, the lander that transports astronauts to the lunar surface it will be a commercial vehicle built by SpaceX, Dynetics or a team led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.