The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has announced the first signatories of the Artemis Accords - a set of principles that will guide future space activities between nations looking to explore the Moon and beyond.
In a press release on Tuesday, October 13, NASA announced the first eight members of the accord: the United States, Australia, Italy, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The eight countries will work together in NASA's Artemis Program - the space program that aims to "land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024."
BREAKING: Today, we are announcing that 8 countries have signed the #Artemis Accords! The Artemis program will be the broadest and most diverse international space exploration coalition in history. And we're just getting started. #IAC2020 More: https://t.co/8WzV1BfJy3 pic.twitter.com/ZNo90qf3on — Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) October 13, 2020
An International Collaboration
"Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration program in history," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. He adds that the accords will be the "vehicle" to create a global coalition of nations.
Bridenstine said that the signing of the accord marks NASA's uniting with their partners to explore the Moon, adding that the accord is will create the principles that will lead to a "safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space."
In a document available on its website, the Artemis Accords outline "principles for cooperation in the civil exploration" of the Moon, Mars, as well as comets and asteroids. NASA stresses the key role of its international partners in achieving mankind's "sustainable and robust" presence on the lunar surface. The agency first announced its plans to establish the accords earlier this year, which will implement bilateral agreements to guide each party's responsibilities including exploration and data sharing.
In Support of the Outer Space Treaty
NASA, also from its press release, notes that the accords "reinforce and implement" the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, the tripartite agreement between the US, the UK, and then the Soviet Union soon grew to include 110 countries as of June 2020. One of the main points of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty is the prohibition of using outer space to stock or stage nuclear weapons.
Among the provisions reinforced by the Artemis Accords include the Registration Convention, which requires concerned parties to disclose details about the launch and mission specifics of each space undertaking. Another is the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts - positing that all member states take all possible steps to rescue and support astronauts found in distress and if possible, return them to their home states.
NASA has also identified the principles of the accords, including Peaceful Exploration, Transparency, Release of Scientific Data, Preserving Heritage, and Orbital Debris - which requires member states to "commit to planning for the safe disposal of debris.
The space agency expressed that additional countries will join as signatories to the accords, citing its continuous efforts to work with international countries. This announcement came after Roscosmos head, Dmitry Rogozin, said Russia was unlikely to join in the Lunar Gateway project - a planned space station positioned on the Moon's orbit to support future space exploration missions.
The Artemis Accords' effectiveness would be limited without the signatures of three countries: China, Russia and India. The prospects of China and Russia signing on seem low at the moment. NASA is prohibited from engaging with China on space cooperation by Congress. — Parabolicarc.com (@spacecom) October 13, 2020
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