The return of humans to the Moon in 2024 and the growing the dominance of private firms in space exploration means new rules have to be put in place to govern both lunar exploration and the new space the business now arising.
On May 15, NASA revealed the "Artemis Accords," a set of agreements governing the space activities of international space agencies and private companies involved in the Artemis Program. The Accords consist of a series of bilateral agreements between nation states involved in NASA's Artemis Program and is based on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
The Outer Space Treaty drawn-up by the United Nations provides detailed guidelines about what a country can or can't do in space.
NASA says the core of the Artemis Accords is the requirement all space activities be conducted only for peaceful purposes in accord with the tenets of the Outer Space Treaty. The Accords cover Transparency, Interoperability, Emergency Assistance, Registration of Space Objects, Release of Scientific Data, Protecting Heritage, Space Resources, Deconfliction of Activities, and Orbital Debris and Spacecraft Disposal.
Apart from these key areas, the Accords also request international partners to protect sites and artifacts with historic value. These are areas where Moon landings have occurred since the 1960s. These lunar artifacts also include some 190,000 kilograms (400,000 pounds) of junk littering the lunar surface. Other parts of the Accords are agreements on space resources and information about orbital debris and disposal.
The Artemis Accords say without proper registration, coordination to avoid harmful interference cannot take place. It reinforces the crucial nature of registration and urges any partner that isn't already a member of the Registration Convention to join as soon as possible.
The Artemis Program is a crewed spaceflight program dominated by NASA. Joining NASA are U.S. commercial spaceflight companies, and international partners such as the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the Australian Space Agency (ASA).
The goal of the Artemis Program is to land "the first woman and the next man" on the Moon, specifically at the lunar south pole, by 2024.
NASA and its partners said that with many countries and private sector firms conducting missions and operations in cislunar space, it's vital a common set of principles be established for the safe use of outer space.
The agency said international space agencies that join it in the Artemis program will have to execute bilateral Artemis Accords agreements. These agreements, based on the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, will facilitate exploration, science, and commercial activities in space.