The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has signed agreements with seven international partners to support Nasa’s Artemis crewed space programme and to establish a set of practical principles for space exploration cooperation between the signatory countries, which will be taking part in Nasa’s lunar exploration programmes during this century. The agreements are called the Artemis Accords and the signatory organisations, apart from Nasa itself, are the Australian Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the Luxembourg Space Agency, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and the UK Space Agency.
“Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration programme in history, and the Artemis Accords are the vehicle that will establish this singular global coalition,” highlighted Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine. “With 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.”
Other countries would be able to join the Artemis Accords in the coming months and years. The accords were in full alignment with, and reinforced, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The principles of the accords were peaceful exploration; transparency (especially in the conduct of operations); interoperability of systems; emergency assistance; membership of (or rapidly joining) the convention regarding the registration of space objects; the public release of scientific data; the preservation of Outer Space heritage; exploiting space resources in compliance with the Outer Space Treaty; the deconfliction of activities (to avoid accidents); and planning to safely dispose of space debris.
“Fundamentally, the Artemis Accords will help to avoid conflict in space and on Earth by strengthening mutual understanding and reducing misperceptions,” pointed out Nasa acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations Mike Gold. “Transparency, public registration, deconflicting operations – these are the principles that will preserve peace.”
The Artemis programme would send the first woman and the next man to the surface of the Moon in 2024. Nasa would naturally be the lead agency, but its international partners would play important roles in the establishment of a sustainable and strong human presence on the Moon by the end of this decade, and in preparing for the first human mission to Mars.
The Artemis programme included the creation of a space station orbiting the Moon, designated Lunar Gateway. This would be assembled from a number of modules before the first crewed Lunar landing mission in 2024.
In an announcement about the signing of the Artemis Accords that was separate from, but parallel to, Nasa’s, the UK government pointed out that it had committed more than £16-million (about $21-million) to the first design phase for the Lunar Gateway’s service and habitation modules. This would ensure that British industry would be involved in the development and manufacture of key components for the programme.