Christopher newmanProfessor, Professor of Space Law and Policy, Northumbria University, Newcastle
Eight countries have signed the Artemis Awards, a set of guidelines around the Artemis program for exploring the Moon’s crew. The United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates and the United States are now all partners in the project, which aims to bring humans back to the moon by 2024 and to establish a crew lunar base by 2030.
This may sound like progress. The nations struggled for many years on the issue of how to control a human settlement on the moon and to deal with the management of any resource. But several major countries have raised serious concerns about the allegations and have so far refused to sign them.
Previous attempts to rule the space have been through international treaties. Outer Space Treaty 1967 laid out the fundamental principles for human space exploration – it should be peaceful and benefit all mankind, not just one country. But the treaty is short in method of expansion. The 1979 Moon Agreement attempted to prevent commercial exploitation of outer-space resources, but only a few states have ratified it – not the US, China and Russia.
Now that the US is advancing the Artemis program, the question is how states will behave in the discovery of the moon and using its resources. The signing of the accent represents an important political effort to codify key principles of space law and apply them to the program. You can hear more about some of the governance issues facing nations that want to explore the moon in a podcast. For the moon and beyond, see link below.
Agreements are bilateral agreements and not binding instruments of international law. But by establishing practice in the region, they can have a significant impact on any subsequent governance structure for human settlements in Mars and beyond.
All seven partners who have agreed to the agreement with the US are natural partners in the Artemis program and will easily follow the stated principles. Japan wants to engage in lunar exploration. Luxembourg has dedicated legislation allowing for space mining and has also signed an additional collaborative agreement with the US.
Both the United Arab Emirates and Australia are actively striving to establish collaborative relationships with the wider space industry, so this represents a true opportunity for capacity building for them. Italy, the UK and Canada all have ambitions to develop their space manufacturing industries and will see this as an opportunity to grow their economies.
The accents are relatively unbalanced. Overall, there is reference to the existing outer space treaty framework, so they are close to the existing norms of space law. Thus, the accusations are deliberately designed to reassure countries that this is not a directive on how to treat a heterogeneous power.
There is a clear statement that mining of space resources is in accordance with international law. This has been since the controversial passage of the Space Act 2015, which placed the right to use and trade of space resources in US domestic law. But Section 10 (4) of the allegations also spells out the ongoing discussions in the UN Committee on Peace of Utter Space about how the legal framework should evolve.
The rest of the actors focus on security in space operations, transparencies, and interoperability (which refers to the ability of space systems to work closely with each other).
If the substance is reassuring, US propaganda of accents outside the “normal” channels of international space law – such as the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Use of Space – will cause bottlenecks for some states. Rather than requiring potential allies to sign bilateral agreements on behavior, some nations would see the US as trying to enforce its quasi-legal rules. This could see US partnership agreements and lucrative financial contracts strengthening their own key leadership positions.
Russia has already stated that the Artemis program is also “US-centric” to sign in its current form. China’s absence is explained by the prohibition of the US Congress in cooperation with the country. There is concern that it is a power grabbed by the US and that its allied countries lack any African or South American countries from any of the founding partner states.
Surprisingly Germany, France and India are also absent. These are countries with well-developed space programs that would certainly benefit from joining Project Artemis. Their opposition to the Moon agreement may be down to a priori and a willingness to have a fair negotiation on the treaty governing the lunar discovery.
The European Space Agency (ESA) as an organization has not signed the accused either, but has several ESA member states. This is unique. The ambitious US deadline for the project will struggle to fully sign off with the lengthy consultation of the 17 member states required by the ESA.
Ultimately, the Artemis Agreement is revolutionary in the field of space exploration. Using bilateral agreements that set norms of behavior as a condition to join a program is a significant change in space governance. With Russia and China opposing them, the allegations are sure to elicit diplomatic resistance and their existence may provoke contradictions in traditional social forums.
The question is also what will be the impact on the US election and the program of the COVID-19 epidemic. We already know that President Trump is keen to see astronauts on the moon by 2024. His Democratic opponent Joe Biden’s vision is much less clear. He may well shorten the 2024 deadline and instead aim for a broad diplomatic consensus on behavior through engagement at the United Nations.
Although widespread international acceptance may be desirable, the US believes that the greed for opportunities afforded by the Artemis program will soon bring other partners on board. Space-active states now face a dire option: miss out on being the first to use the moon’s resources, or accept the price of doing business and sign the Artemis agreement.
This article is republished from chit chat Under a Creative Commons license. read the Original Article.
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