Eight nations have signed up to become founding members of NASA’s Artemis Agreements, an international agreement that establishes how countries can cooperate to conduct exploration of the moon in a peaceful and responsible manner.
NASA announced Tuesday that the United States has signed the agreements, along with Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the deal will establish a “singular global coalition” to guide future expeditions to the moon.
NASA developed the Artemis Arrangements to partner with other nations to establish the basic principles to guide manned and robotic lunar exploration. The name of the deal refers to NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to send astronauts, including the first woman, to the moon by 2024.
The agreements include provisions for peaceful exploration, security, transparency, the sustainable use of space resources, cooperation to build and operate spacecraft and other hardware, and the management and disposal of orbital debris.
“Fundamentally, the Artemis agreements will help avoid conflicts in space and on Earth by strengthening mutual understanding and reducing misperceptions,” Mike Gold, NASA’s associate administrator for international and inter-agency relations, said in a statement. “Artemis’s journey is to the moon, but the destination of the agreements is a peaceful and prosperous future.”
The Artemis Accords are based on another important international agreement known as the Outer Space Treaty, which was enacted in 1967. The Outer Space Treaty prohibits the use of nuclear weapons or any other weapon of mass destruction in space and establishes that the exploration of space, the moon and other celestial bodies should be for peaceful purposes only.
The Outer Space Treaty was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1966 and has since been signed by 110 countries.
Unlike the Outer Space Treaty, the Artemis agreements are not binding and there is no formal way to apply the rules set out in the agreement.
And not all countries that have lunar ambitions have signed the agreements, even though NASA has said other countries are expected to join the agreement in the coming months and years. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian Roscosmos space program, was a vocal critic.
When the Artemis agreements were first announced, Rogozin likened the agreement to an invasion. During a virtual press conference this week at the International Aviation Congress, Rogozin also said that Russia will not take part in NASA’s Artemis program because it is “too US-centric.”