Artemis Accords Explained

This past week New Zealand became the latest signatory to the Artemis Accords.

But what are they?

The Artemis accords are a set of bilateral agreements between the US and an increasing number of partner nations that establish a framework for cooperation as humanity ventures once more out to the Moon and beyond.

They emanate from the Artemis program – a followup to the Apollo Program of the 1960s and 70s which seeks to once more put humans on the moon.

The accords, first signed last year by a roster of 11 nations including the UK, Canada, Japan and Australia, is treated as a prerequisite by the United States, which leads the initiative, for involvement in its Artemis mission. This involvement acts as an incentive to signing the accords.

However despite widespread agreement, there is also some debate. A number of international bodies, including major space faring nations such as Russia and China are concerned that the accords place the United States in a sort of gate keeper role, particularly with respect to access to outer space resources. There is a sense that the accords reinforce the US interpretation of the Outer Space Treaty and will facilitate US corporate interests in acquiring dominant access.

Beyond these concerns, the accords themselves are not particularly progressive, but rather re-assert and expand upon a number of stipulations in existing international agreements.

With a new space race in full swing, these sorts of bilateral agreements might not represent the kind of large scale reform required to ensure equitable and conflict free space operations, but it has partly precipitated a revived conversation around the need for larger scale international agreements.

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