What is Old is New Again: NASA Releases Artemis Accords

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has released the Artemis Accords, which the space agency describes as a set of principles for a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space that it will require that partners in the lunar program adopt.

“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 the benefit of humanity,” the space agency said.

The principles include:

  • Use of space for peaceful purposes
  • Transparency in description of civil space projects and plans
  • Interoperability of space systems using open international standards
  • Rendering of emergency assistance
  • Registration of space objects
  • Open release of scientific data
  • Protection of heritage sites on the moon and other bodies
  • Ability to extract and utilize resources on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids
  • Establishment of safety zones to prevent harmful interference with operations
  • Orbital debris and spacecraft removal

A number of the principles — including peaceful use of space, rendering assistance, registration of space objects — are already enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty.

Most of the rest — such as transparency, open release of data and interoperability, for example — are principles that already guide NASA’s operations.

The newest and most controversial is the extraction and utilization of space resources to support safe and sustainable space development.

“The Artemis Accords reinforce that space resource extraction and utilization can and will be conducted under the auspices of the Outer Space Treaty, with specific emphasis on Articles II, VI, and XI,” NASA said.

However, there are some who doubt whether these Outer Space Treaty articles really support resource extraction and use. They say a new international agreement is needed on the matter.

NASA will now discuss the accords with its international partners.