NASA cleared the way for a global debate on the basic principles governing how humans will live and work on the Moon on Friday, publishing the main principles of an international pact for the exploration of the Moon called the agreements Artemis.
The agreements are intended to establish “safety zones” that would surround future moon bases to prevent what the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration called “harmful interference” from competing countries or companies operating nearby.
They would also allow companies to own the lunar resources they exploit, a crucial element in enabling NASA entrepreneurs to convert the moon’s water ice to rocket fuel or to extract lunar minerals to build areas. landing.
The agreements are a key part of NASA’s effort to woo its allies around its plan to build a long-term presence on the lunar surface as part of its Artemis moon program.
“What we are doing is implementing the Outer Space Treaty with the Artemis agreements,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Reuters, referring to an international pact of 1967 which emphasizes that space must be used for peaceful rather than military purposes.
The framework will be used to encourage nations to adhere to American standards of behavior in space, he added.
“It applies to the low Earth orbit, it also applies to the moon,” said Bridenstine. The agreements also require countries to adopt the standards of the United Nations Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines – which govern the prevention of dangerous space debris – and the Registration Convention, which would require countries to provide orbital details. on their “space objects”.
The US Congress passed a law in 2015 authorizing companies to own the resources they exploit in space, but no such law exists in the international community. The Artemis deals, consistent with the Trump administration’s space policy, appear to pave the way for companies to exploit the moon under international law and urge countries to adopt similar national laws that would tie their private sector’s space operations.
“Why should private companies risk exploiting mineral resources if the legal situation prevents them from owning them? Lori Garver, former NASA deputy administrator, told Reuters. “So anything that can do to clear it up could really help advance spatial development. “
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China and Russia
Reuters announced earlier this month that the administration of US President Donald Trump is drafting the Artemis deals.
In response, head of the Russian space agency Dmitry Rogozin criticized Washington for excluding Russia from the first space exploration pact negotiations, drawing parallels to US foreign policy in the Middle East.
“The principle of the invasion is the same, whether it is the Moon or Iraq. The creation of a “coalition of volunteers” has been launched, “Rogozin wrote on Twitter. “Only Iraq or Afghanistan will get out. “
China has said it is ready to cooperate with all parties on lunar exploration “to make a greater contribution to building a community with a shared future for humanity,” a spokesperson said. from the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement faxed to Reuters.
The safe zones – although intended to encourage coordination – have raised questions about the compliance of the agreements with the Outer Space Treaty, which states that the moon and other celestial bodies are “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, through use or occupation. , or by any other means. “
The size of the safety zones would vary depending on the nature of the site they surround and would not constitute an appropriation, said Bridenstine.
They would follow the principle that “basically, I’m going to stay out of your way, you’re going to stay out of my way, and we can all operate in this space,” he added.
However, the question arises as to who determines the size of safety zones, said Ram Jakhu, associate professor at the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill University in Canada. “Safety zones are necessary, but they can also be used to become an appropriation.”
But Mike Gold, associate administrator of NASA for international relations, told Reuters that the language on the extraction of the moon should not worry other nations.
“The principles that are put forward here are nothing that, in our opinion, is at odds with a nation responsible for space,” he said.
“Through the Artemis deals, we hope the future will look a lot more like” Star Trek “and a lot less like” Star Wars “by anticipating these issues,” said Gold.
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