Today, NASA announced that eight countries — including the United States — have signed an international agreement known as the Artemis Accords, forming what NASA calls a broad and diverse coalition of nations committed to standardized lunar exploration.
NASA announced its intention to create the Artemis Accords back in May, after working with the US State Department and the National Space Council to come up with a draft set of rules for exploring the Moon. The document’s name refers to NASA’s Artemis program, an ambitious initiative that aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon. NASA hopes to partner with multiple countries for the program, and the agency created the Artemis Accords to ensure that other nations could agree on best practices for sending robots and people to the lunar surface.
NASA released the draft of the accords to other space-faring countries, and after getting their input, the agency came up with the final document, which includes standards for things like lunar mining and how to handle conflicts on the Moon’s surface. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says the main goal is to get everyone on the same page about lunar exploration and head off any future international misunderstandings or conflicts. “When we think about the Artemis Accords, what we’re trying to do is establish norms of behavior that every nation can agree to,” Bridenstine said during a press call ahead of the announcement.
The seven nations that have signed along with the US are: Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. NASA says that it has also spoken with other countries interested in signing, but these seven nations were able to go through the interagency process the fastest. That means more countries could be signing on to the accords very soon — even before the end of the year, according to NASA. “This first announcement is very much a beginning, not an ending to the nations joining the Accords,” Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the office of international and interagency relations, said during the briefing.
Notably absent from the initial list is Russia, NASA’s biggest partner in human spaceflight and the International Space Station. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s space program, has made it very clear that he is not a fan of the accords or of NASA’s Artemis program. When NASA first announced the accords, Rogozin likened it to a lunar “invasion.” And just yesterday, Rogozin said during a panel at the International Astronautical Congress that the Artemis program is “too US-centric.”
China, another major space power, is also absent, though NASA has long been restricted from partnering or engaging directly with the country on space projects due to a law enacted by Congress. The