Rumors have been circulating recently that the Trump administration was moving forward with legal drafts on utilizing resources in outer space, in particular, the possibility of mining on the Moon. Today, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine officially announced the Artemis Accords, to support a “safe, prosperous and peaceful” future in space.
The Accords are named after Artemis, the Greek goddess of the Moon, just like the new NASA lunar program. An apt name, given that the previous program, Apollo, was named after Artemis' twin brother, the Greek Sun god. There are currently not many legal specifics detailed in the Accords, but Bridenstine has shared the summary principle guiding these agreements. Effectively, NASA will require any country that seeks to participate in the Artemis program to agree to adopt the principles in the Accords.
“With numerous countries and private sector players conducting missions and operations in cislunar space, it’s critical to establish a common set of principles to govern the civil exploration and use of outer space,” the Accords website reads.
“International space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will do so by executing bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, which will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy.”
The Accords explicitly refer to and build upon the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, but appear to expand upon certain aspects. Peaceful purposes and transparency are top of the list on the agreement and the Accord goes on to highlight the importance of cooperation when it comes to the use of international standards for building space structures, and registering what has been sent up, as well as how best to dispose of old spacecraft and clean up after ourselves.
There is also an eye to sharing scientific data and the protection historical sites on the Moon, where humans and robots have landed over the last 61 years. There is also a brief mention of space resources and their possible extraction, the Moon mining Trump seems particularly interested in.
The Artemis Accords will be a central point of discussion among the USA and many other countries for months to come. The space agency's plans to reach the Moon continue, with the goal of putting humans back on lunar soil in 2024.