Why it matters: Warring nations at each other’s throats is something we’re used to seeing here on earth, but NASA hopes that when it comes to future activities on the moon and in space, we’ll learn to cooperate peacefully. To that end, several of the space agency’s partner countries have signed the Artemis Accords, which establish a set of principles for deep space exploration and lunar plans.
Nasa hasn’t been to the moon since commander Eugene Cernan became the last person to walk on it in 1972, but there are plans to put the next man and first woman on the surface in 2024 through Project Artemis. The aim is to build sustainable elements on and around the moon for long-term discovery and exploration, including a lunar space station known as the Gateway.
The project is a huge undertaking and has led to the creation of The Artemis Accords to help avoid conflicts. They build on a 1967 Outer Space Treaty, in which signatories pledge not to put weapons on the moon and other celestial bodies.
The eight founding nations that have signed the Artemis Accords are Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They have agreed to the following ten principles:
- Peaceful Exploration: All activities conducted under the Artemis program must be for peaceful purposes
- Transparency: Artemis Accords signatories will conduct their activities in a transparent fashion to avoid confusion and conflicts
- Interoperability: Nations participating in the Artemis program will strive to support interoperable systems to enhance safety and sustainability
- Emergency Assistance: Artemis Accords signatories commit to rendering assistance to personnel in distress
- Registration of Space Objects: Any nation participating in Artemis must be a signatory to the Registration Convention or become a signatory with alacrity
- Release of Scientific Data: Artemis Accords signatories commit to the public release of scientific information, allowing the whole world to join us on the Artemis journey
- Preserving Heritage: Artemis Accords signatories commit to preserving outer space heritage
- Space Resources: Extracting and utilizing space resources is key to safe and sustainable exploration and the Artemis Accords signatories affirm that such activities should be conducted in compliance with the Outer Space Treaty
- Deconfliction of Activities: The Artemis Accords nations commit to preventing harmful interference and supporting the principle of due regard, as required by the Outer Space Treaty
- Orbital Debris: Artemis Accords countries commit to planning for the safe disposal of debris
While NASA says more countries will put their names on the Artemis Accords, two notable absentees are Russia and China—both of whom signed the Outer Space Treaty. Russia, which partners with the US on the ISS, said it has little interest in taking a major role just yet.
“Our American partners are actively promoting [Artemis]. In our view Lunar Gateway in its current form is too US-centric. Russia is likely to refrain from participating in it on a large scale,” said Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. “This being said, we are interested in making sure that the design of the docking module will enable [Russia’s future Orel crew] spacecraft to dock to the Lunar Gateway.”
China isn’t being as open to cooperation. It believes the Artemis Accords are another example of the US trying to colonize space and claim sovereignty over the moon.