Over the next few years, we’ll finally be heading back to the Moon. But with nearly 50 years in between our last Moon jaunt and this one, a lot has changed.
With private companies becoming a huge part of space programs and the rise of many international space agencies, space is getting rather crowded, so some new rules may be needed to help everyone play nice.
That’s why NASA has just provided a set of agreements – which they’ve termed the Artemis Accords – for other international space agencies and private companies to abide by, while a new generation of astronauts are enjoying the off-world views.
“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 team explained in a statement.
“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.”
These Accords are exactly what you would expect from NASA – they include peace, transparency, interoperability (the ability of products or systems to work with different products or systems). But there are also some very interesting agreements for us space nerds to dig into.
For example, NASA is requesting all international partners agree to share their scientific data publicly, as well as register all space objects.
“Without proper registration, coordination to avoid harmful interference cannot take place,” the Accords read.
“The Artemis Accords reinforces the critical nature of registration and urges any partner which isn’t already a member of the Registration Convention to join as soon as possible.”
Right now, about 87 percent of all satellites, probes, landers, and other launched space objects have been registered with the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space.
The Accords also request international partners protect the current sites and artefacts with ‘historic value’ – likely areas where Moon landings have already happened. With almost 190,000 kilograms (over 400,000 pounds) of junk already left behind on the Moon, that’s actually not as easy as you’d imagine.
There are agreements on space resources, and information about orbital debris and disposal, but many of these are incredibly similar to the Outer Space Treaty – a document by the United Nations that came into effect in 1967 and gives detailed guidelines about what a country can or can’t do in space.
In fact, the document – which hasn’t changed in over 50 years – has a lot of valuable lessons for this next stage of space exploration.
Although a lot has changed, it seems like some things – cooperation, peace, and the good of human-kind – stay the same.
You can read all of the Artemis Accords here.