Nations sign on to NASA's Artemis Accords for peaceful space exploration
With space exploration becoming more accessible to more countries, cooperation will be key to making sure everything goes to plan. NASA has outlined the principles for that peaceful future in the Artemis Accords, and now a group of founding member nations has signed them.
During the space race of the 1950s and 60s, it soon became apparent that new international laws were needed regarding who could do what beyond the confines of Earth. In response, the Outer Space Treaty was enacted in 1967, which ensured that space remained free for exploration and use by all nations, for peaceful purposes only. Further, it forbids any government from claiming sovereignty over a celestial body, and prohibits weapons of mass destruction being placed in outer space.
The brand new Artemis Accords build on that foundation. They’re named for NASA's major Artemis Plan, which intends to return humans – including the first woman – to the Moon in 2024. This time it’ll be a permanent presence, with deep space outposts setting the stage for eventual crewed missions to Mars. And NASA has similarly lofty ambitions for the Accords.
“Fundamentally, the Artemis Accords will help to avoid conflict in space and on Earth by strengthening mutual understanding and reducing misperceptions,” says Mike Gold, acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations at NASA. “Transparency, public registration, deconflicting operations – these are the principles that will preserve peace. The Artemis journey is to the Moon, but the destination of the Accords is a peaceful and prosperous future.”
The principles of the Artemis Accords are the kinds of things you’d expect. All activities must be for peaceful purposes, and conducted transparently. Scientific data must be released to the public, all space objects must be registered, and signatories must commit to helping other nations’ personnel in the event of emergencies. Preserving space heritage and planning for safe disposal of debris are also focal points.
So far, eight nations have signed on as founding members of Artemis – the US, UK, Australia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Japan and Luxembourg. Others are likely to come onboard in the next few months and years, NASA says.
“Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration program in history, and the Artemis Accords are the vehicle that will establish this singular global coalition,” says Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator. “With today’s signing, we are uniting with our partners to explore the Moon and are establishing vital principles that will create a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space for all of humanity to enjoy.”