NASA The return to the moon project is already ambitious enough in itself, but the agency aims to modernize international cooperation in space in the process. Today, he released a summary of the “Artemis Agreements,” a new set of voluntary guidelines that partner nations and organizations are invited to join in advancing the cause of exploration and industry on a large scale. world.
Having neither national affiliation nor its own sovereignty, space is by definition lawless. So it’s not so much space laws as it is shared priorities, in a reasonably solid form. Many countries are already involved in various agreements and treaties, but progress in space exploration (and soon, colonization and mining, among others) has overtaken much of this structure. A new coat of paint is overdue and NASA has decided to resume the paintbrush.
The Artemis agreements reiterate both the importance of these old rules and conventions and introduce a handful of new ones. They are only described in general today, as the details will likely need to be worked out in shared discussions over the months or years.
NASA’s statement outlining the rules and the rationale behind each is short and visibly intended to be understood by a lay audience, so you can read it here. But I have condensed the main points into bullets below for more streamlined consumption.
First, the rules that could be considered new. NASA and partner countries agree to:
- Publicly describe policies and plans in a transparent manner.
- Publicly provide the location and general nature of operations to create “safety zones” and avoid conflicts.
- Use international open standards, develop new standards if necessary, and support interoperability where possible.
- Publicly disseminate scientific data in a timely manner.
- Protect sites and artifacts of historic value. (For example, the Apollo program landing sites, which have no real legal protection.)
- Plan for the mitigation of orbital debris, including the safe and timely disposal of end-of-life spacecraft.
As you can imagine, each of them opens a new box of worms – what is transparent? What transactions should be disclosed and when? Who determines what has “historical value”?
Everything that can be discussed will be discussed for a long time, but setting basic expectations like “don’t be secret” or “don’t fly the Apollo 13 lander” is a great place to start the conversation.
Meanwhile, the agreements also reaffirm NASA’s commitment to existing treaties and directives. She and her partners:
- Conduct all activities only for peaceful purposes, in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty.
- Take all reasonable steps to assist astronauts in distress, in accordance with the Astronaut Rescue Agreement and other agreements.
- Record items sent to space in accordance with the Recording Agreement.
- Extract and use space resources in accordance with Articles II, VI and XI of the Outer Space Treaty.
- Inform partner countries about “safe areas” and coordinate in accordance with Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty.
- Mitigate debris in accordance with guidelines established by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
The Artemis program aims to place the next American man and the first woman on the surface of the Moon in 2024, although this timeline seems increasingly unlikely. The mission will leverage suppliers of private launchers and other business partners to an unprecedented degree in an effort to reduce costs and delays while maintaining the necessary levels of reliability and security.