Private companies and international governments are all racing to establish a presence in space. One of the more exciting missions on the horizon is NASA’s Artemis program. This mission aims to return humanity to the moon, permanently, by 2024. In anticipation of this, NASA has recently developed the Artemis Accords: a set of guidelines for everyone involved in near-future moon missions to follow. The Artemis Accords are an extension of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which attempted to establish space as neutral territory.
The Artemis program is an international effort being lead by NASA. It’ll involve the construction of a space station — called the Lunar Gateway — in lunar orbit, and eventually a permanent base of operations on the surface. NASA is also providing contracts to private space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. These contracts require the private companies to deliver payloads to the Lunar Gateway station and down to the Moon’s surface.
The Artemis Accords
So what do the Artemis Accords contain? Written in these documents are several key measures. All entities should follow them in order to ensure safety and efficiency during lunar endeavors. They include:
- Emergency Assistance
- Registration of Space Objects
- Release of Scientific Data
- Protection of Heritage
- Space Resources
- Deconfliction of Activities
- Orbital Debris and Spacecraft Removal
In summary, NASA wants to make sure that scientific research is shared among all, that everyone is environmentally conscious, and that any conflicts are resolved safely and peacefully. Read the Artemis Accord PDF below, or visit the official website, for details on each of those key points.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967
World governments drafted a similar guideline signed into law in the late ’60s called the Outer Space Treaty. Key points were to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons in space, ban any non-peaceful activities, and prohibit any nation from taking sovereignty over a celestial object. Although it’s a bit ambiguous, the Outer Space Treaty laid the groundwork for modern space law. Some of the ambiguity that the treaty presented is being addressed as more entities seek operations in space. A good example is the mining of resources, which saw the creation of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015.
Nonetheless, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 was a symbolic message that the world was serious about space colonization. It has laid the groundwork for modern space law, and for proposals such as the Artemis Accords. As of today, 109 countries have signed the treaty.