NASA’s Artemis Accords document seeks collaborative moon exploration

NASA has laid out the principles through which it will operate its Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon in a document called the Artemis Accords, and has asked its partners — including both international space agencies and private companies — to agree to them.

“While NASA is leading the Artemis program, international partnerships will play a key role in achieving a sustainable and robust presence on the Moon while preparing to conduct a historic human mission to Mars,” the statement read, and therefore “it’s critical to establish a common set of principles to govern the civil exploration and use of outer space.”

Some of the guiding principles laid out in the accords include the aim that the exploration of space and the Artemis mission, in particular, is for peaceful purposes, and that it should enhance relationships between nations. NASA also emphasized the importance of transparency and the use of internationally recognized and agreed-upon standards to allow different agencies and different companies’ technologies to work together.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine addresses international representatives
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine addresses international representatives. NASA

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described the accords as “a new dawn for space exploration” that are “establishing a shared vision and set of principles for all international partners that join in humanity’s return to the moon.”

In addition, NASA is known for being exceptionally open with its data and sharing its findings with the wider scientific community, and the accords specify that other partners should follow NASA’s example and make their scientific data available quickly and in an open format.

It also raised the problem of space debris, laying out principles that space objects should be registered for reasons of safety and sustainability, and that orbital debris should be mitigated, with spacecraft being disposed of responsibly.

Other parts of the accords include an agreement to protect historic sites and, importantly considering the uptick in interest in moon mining, an agreement to follow international space law about the extraction and utilization of resources.

The Outer Space Treaty, which lays out the principles of international space law, specifically states that outer space including the moon cannot be claimed as part of a nation, and that activities in outer space should be made public as much as possible so that the international scientific community and the public can learn from them.

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